It is often said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Modern companies, from the smallest start-ups to the largest corporations, are living proof of this maxim. People do their best work when they work together and, as it happens, leaders often lead best together. But what is collaborative leadership? Let’s get into it.
What is collaborative leadership?
Collaborative leadership is when leaders at a company work together to make decisions and chart a course for the future. It stands in stark contrast to top-down leadership, a method characterized by its reliance on a single person, usually the CEO, to make all of the businesses’ decisions.
Collaborative leadership teams are often composed of people from different and distinct areas of the company; for example they could include leaders with expertise in tech, marketing or human resources. This kind of experiential diversity is one of the great strengths of the collaborative leadership model.
Collaborative leadership in the tech world, for example, might look like the members of a company’s product team deciding together about which new feature they should work to develop and launch first.
Why collaborative leadership is important
Being able to draw from the combined talents of several qualified people when making important decisions is better for business than relying on the wisdom of an individual, however sage he or she may be.
It’s simply a numbers game: more people means more ideas, more ideas means an increased likelihood that one idea will be the idea that’ll take your business to the next level.
Characteristics that collaborative leaders have in common
So, what’re the attributes you want to look out for when evaluating potential members of your leadership team? We’ll list some of them below.
#1 Open communication
Effective collaborative leaders go out of their way to ensure lines of communication stay open throughout business hours, and often outside of them. This sort of dedication to open communication is a crucial element to successful collaborative leadership. Members of leadership teams are constantly bouncing ideas off of one another. If someone is unavailable for an extended period of time, it can represent a significant roadblock in the creative process.
Once a final decision is reached by a collaborative leadership team, it’s important for everyone to present a united front to the rest of the company. Dissension of any sort can badly weaken people’s confidence in the team, and sow doubt among employees about the wisdom of the decision that has been made.
People are not automatons and your company shouldn’t be run like a dictatorship, so some disagreement should be expected and tolerated. However, as a general rule, the leadership team should sort out any lingering differences they may have before presenting a decision to the rest of the company.
#3 Ability to find consensus
The best ideas are often conglomerations of many good ideas. The ability to effectively blend them into something everyone can agree on is a quality many successful collaborative leaders share.
For example, a marketing professional and software developer will likely have different ideas about how to solve the same problem. This isn’t a bad thing — actually it’s quite good: their different backgrounds give them unique and valuable ideas about how to tackle issues.
If members of your leadership team know when and how to compromise, they’ll be able to find consensus on important decisions and keep your company moving forward.
How to become a collaborative leader
We’ve defined collaborative leadership, explained why it’s important and shared some of the qualities that skillful leaders have in common. Sounds like a pretty good way to run a business, right? Now we’ll cover some of the steps you’ll need to take to implement a collaborative leadership model at your workplace.
Before installing any new process or method, it’s important to do your research. Reading this article is a good start, but we’d recommend looking into some real-world examples of companies that use a collaborative leadership model.
There are plenty out there, including IBM and General Electric, so get out there and look into why they chose collaborative leadership over top-down leadership, and what they’ve learned from their experience.
Once you’ve gathered enough information about collaborative leadership in general, and the kind of collaborative leadership model you’d like to implement at your company, you can move on to the next step.
#2 Practice collaborative leadership in your workplace
There will no doubt be a lot of trial and error at first, but the only way to know if collaborative leadership is right for your business is to go ahead and give it a try.
You can follow these steps:
- Start by gathering your leadership team together and setting objectives for the first several months.
- Then, define protocols for decision-making and idea-generating, and then stick to them.
- Finally, be open to receiving feedback from employees about the effectiveness of the collaborative leadership model in your workplace.
Discipline and a commitment to finding consensus will be crucial, especially at first, but if you’re patient you’ll no doubt reap the bountiful rewards of collaborative leadership.
#3 Get feedback from your team
The decisions that your collaborative leadership team makes will, of course, affect everybody at your company. That’s why it’s important to solicit feedback from all of your employees about how things are going.
One way to do this is to send out an email survey with questions like, “On a scale of 1 to 10, rate the performance of the leadership team?” and “Do you prefer our new collaborative leadership model to our old model? Why or why not?”.
Gathering feedback from the whole of your team will demonstrate to them that you value their opinion, which in turn will increase job satisfaction among your employees.
Adopting a collaborative leadership model at your company will necessitate an increase in the baseline level of communication taking place between members of your team.
In order to make this transition as smooth as possible, you’ll want to invest in a top-quality communications software. Luckily, we’ve got just the thing.
CloudTalk is an all-in-one communication platform that can facilitate internal and external business communication at your company. Conference calling, internal calls and three-way calls — in which agents can add a third person person to their calls with clients — are just a few of the features that make collaborating with CloudTalk as easy as pie.
Give it a try today with our 14-day free trial.