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Leadership is not so lonely – it should be collaborative

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It seems that the concept of leadership is seen as a place to be or attained. It is something to work towards and maybe somewhere along the way, you attain a label as a leader. Once we are that leader, we must lock the door behind us because it is an exclusive place to be where secret handshakes and conversations can take place. Once that transformation happens, bands will play and confetti will fall as you accept the honour. Unfortunately, leadership does not work that way. Leadership is a quiet process based on your actions and character. Actually, the people around you will determine if you are a leader, not you. We often see leadership in a singular way. One person and one path for that person; however, what if leadership were different than the traditional view of one person? What if leadership was bigger than the individual and more the place we all need to strive towards? It is about removing that lock and exclusivity because we are all leaders and all followers.

The way I view a trend in leadership is that it is moving more towards collaboration, or I hope it is moving towards this direction. Rather than one person at the top, it is more about everyone being able to bring something of significance forward and collectively we will go towards greatness. What this means is that everyone has a part to play and at times, you will be a more prominent role and other times supportive. It also means that you have to be comfortable parking your ego at the door and allowing the greater whole guide the process. Everyone has something to contribute; however, you need to first learn who you are and the strengths you hold in order to know how to support and be a part of this collaborative process. So how does one build a collaborative approach?

Here are 9 ways to unlock and initiate it.
1) Make a commitment – As an organization or an individual, you must make a commitment to provide a space that allows collaboration to occur and as an individual, that you must fully commit to contribute to the greater good. It is a mutual relationship that needs to emerge. This means you need to shift and change the culture, if it is not present…and as we all know, changing or shifting a culture is difficult. Support the change and don’t be a bystander.

2) Appreciate what you have – Realize that everyone in your circle has something to contribute. Each person brings unique skills and perspectives that adds depth to the team and organization. By having varying perspectives, you have strength in ways you can solve issues and problems.

3) Value each person – Think of your task or goals as the completed puzzle and each person are the pieces that contribute to the overall completion. If everyone is not involved and pulling their strengths, you can not accomplish what you set out to do. Each person needs to be made aware of the varied strengths that emerge.

4) People need to know their strengths – It is surprising that people know what they do but they don’t know why they do things or what they are able to do outside of their boundaries. They can tell you what they are not good at, but they are reserved in what they are able to do. You need to arrange a way that people are able to better understand who they are. All too often, we know what we might not be good at, how about we try and figure out what we are good at.

5) People need to be allowed to contribute – The organization must trust and create a space where people are permitted to contribute and know that they are valued for their contribution. There needs to be a shift from doing your required tasks to expanding your boundaries and working with each other. This is the responsibility of the organization to grow this as part of their culture.

6) People need to know how to contribute – You must support the individuals with tools and resources so they get ignited to start contributing and collaborating because they might not know how to contribute. It is up to the organization to establish a process that opens the avenues for growth in ideas and collaboration and the individual to be open to try a new approach.

7) Remove barriers – This part is challenging because within organizations, there are silos, budgets and metrics that will cause old habits to emerge that remove collaboration. People who are in authority protect their area, their people, resources and interest and this needs to shift to a more collaborative approach. We need to focus on the bigger and more significant goals that gets people working together.

8) No one person ensures victory or setbacks – If things go well, we all celebrate. If issues emerge and we don’t meet our goals and objectives, then we all reflect on the setback and fix things together. No one person is to blame or feel successful.

9) It should be all about the people – Metrics, measurement and data are important and rather than it becoming all consuming and bringing anxiety to the organization and people, leverage the measurable information to strengthen the direction and focus of the task at hand. Allow your people to use the tools available to create where and what you need to do.

While we still see individual and authoritarian leadership rise to the surface and easily visible, collaborative leadership might be more difficult to pin point and explain because it is organic in nature and not as prominent. It is quieter than the noisy authoritarian leader who needs to be visible. Under collaborative leadership, you will see things flow and work like a finely tuned machine. It is a collective process. Commitment is critical in all this. If you believe in your people as a primary area of your business, then give them the tools and opportunity to do great things. In this case, more heads are better than one! You are the key that unlocks the door and just need the courage to step up and be a part of something bigger. You are not to be a bystander in life.


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