The concept of collaborative leadership seems foreign to some professionals new to a leadership role. Most newly anointed leaders anticipate an environment where they are streaming orders down the line and their staff are jumping into action. Things are getting done as long as they seem to be in control, barking orders and expecting complete subordination of their authority. It is an idealistic world that truly only can be successful in the most limited environments or in times of life-or-death situations. The practice of collaborative leadership can be crucial in times of uncertainty or turbulence, but is also a driving element in the lean manufacturing environment. Simply put, it creates a collaborative environment where people can unite with purpose, with clear vision and a solid set of values.
Leaders practicing in an environment of collaborative leadership have a purpose and vision, with character and values that are unwavering. These elements blend together and create passion, but that passion must begin with the leader. Others will not follow a leader that lacks passion, simply because they lead by example. This element of passion in leadership creates the spark that drives others to initiate actions independently and step up to the challenge.They are will to take on ambitious responsibilities and accept the risks associated without fear.
The elements of purpose, character and values brings a leader forward in the work environment. One of the hardest lessons learned in that environment is that they are really never in control. It is understood that people comply with authority when the leader is present. The real key to success is what they do in the absence of authority. Collaborative leadership principles demand leaders that can lead without the safety net of a title, position or authority of a superior. This doesn’t mean that you cut deals or accept substandard performance. It simply means that your drive, passion and commitment inspire others to follow your lead.
Finally, collaborative leadership focuses on developing people and other leaders at all levels. It instills the concept that everyone is a leader. Everyone has voice that is respected and that they are expected to take the responsibility for their actions. This means that mistakes are no longer there to be documented and considered as punishable infractions. They become opportunities for learning and development. You must take your people outside of their comfort zones and encourage them to succeed.
There are many elements involved in collaborative leadership. They require a leader to give up their authoritative tendencies, get out of their office and join the work environment they are responsible for. It requires character, passion and the establishment of trust. It is truly the foundation of a successful team and the collaborative process. It is all about the people.