What is Collaborative Leadership and How to Become a Collaborative Leader

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The role and form of leadership has changed with time based on changing industry dynamics and organizational needs. While there are several styles of leadership that leaders adopt based on the needs of the company, collaborative leadership is among the most preferred ones due to the several advantages it offers. It is a preferred leadership style because it is easier for collaborative leaders to gain support from their followers. However, there are also several more advantages of collaborative leadership style and compared to the traditional role of the leader, this style has been found to be more effective at facilitating teamwork.

What is collaborative leadership?

Collaborative leadership style is broadly defined as a more inclusive type of leadership style. It includes the ideas and inputs from various levels of the organization for making important decisions. In the traditional top-down leadership approach, the top executives would make decisions and those decisions will be applied at all levels without the lower-level employees having nay insight into how and why these decisions were made. Such leadership style omitted the input from the lower-level managers and employees. However, that cannot be considered very practical in the current times.

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Especially when the industry has grown highly competitive and the input from all levels matters, leaders need to consider the insights gained from each level in the organization for making important decisions.  The collaborative leadership style considers the input of the entire team. It includes the input from the entire team. There is no single leader making decisions in isolation. It makes employees feel valued and leads to improvement in employee morale.

Being a collaborative leader means you inspire trust among your team members and help them engage in teamwork. Several benefits come from being a collaborative leader and it can be a healthy leadership style for budding leaders especially. Collaboration or team work can be highly profitable for companies. Research has shown that such companies enjoy growth in performance and productivity. Overall, companies with collaborative leaderships can be more innovative, agile and superior in terms of performance compared to their competitors.

In the next section, we will discuss the important characteristics of collaborative leadership. This leadership style has several important characteristics which are not limited to collaboration or inclusion. Collaborative leaders are also experts in terms of communication and strengthening relationships.

Suggested Reading: Nine Elements of Communication

Here are the most important characteristics of collaborative leadership:

  • Ability to inspire trust

One of the most important characteristics of collaborative leadership is its ability to build trust and rapport with the subordinates. Building trust and rapport requires that both the leadership and the followers trust each other. It is a two-way relationship. Collaborative leaders seek to actively maintain trust. They communicate openly with their employees and provide them the autonomy they need to make decisions and take actions. They also actively seek input from their followers which works to strengthen trust between them.

  • Ability to motivate employees:

Another important characteristic of collaborative leadership is the ability to motivate the subordinates. Collaborative leaders are inclusive leaders which means they include their employees and subordinates in important actions and decisions. They are better at using positive reinforcements to motivate their employees to perform better. Unlike the traditional leaders who might be more inclined towards the use of punishments and harsh measures to extract performance, the collaborative leaders use positive motivators and incentives to improve employee performance.

  • Delegates responsibilities to followers:

Collaborative leaders recognize the unique skills of each of their followers. Such leaders work to empower their team members and to ensure that each one is able to deliver its best performance. They also assign responsibilities tasks to each member based on his unique skill and talents.

  • Risk taker:

Often, the collaborative leaders are also excellent risk takers. They are more open to risk taking compared to the traditional leaders. They also encourage their team members and subordinates to take on new challenges and bear risks. Collaborative leaders do not encourage inside the box thinking. They are open to innovation and inspire their subordinates to think innovatively. Their focus is not always on efficiency only but on helping people think creatively and not be afraid of making mistakes.

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  • Excellent communicator:

Leadership is also about having great communication skills. Leaders without great communication skills can fail to make an impact. Whether during meetings or in other situations, their ability to communicate clearly and speak emphatically allows them to bring the team together and make them work collaboratively on new ideas. Their communication skills are also helpful in terms of motivating their staff and improving their performance. However, they are also good listeners; just as good as they are speakers. They listen to what their subordinates have to say and communicate with them regularly in the form of feedback or at other times to maintain excellent relationships with others.

  • Problem solver:

Collaborative leaders are also great problem solvers. They are experts in their areas and use a creative approach to solving organizational problems. Such leaders derive input from their subordinates and other sources and transform them into actionable information. They are patient and able to handle challenging situations with creativity.

  • Transparent leadership:

Collaborative leaders also need to be transparent to their subordinates and team members. Such leaders handle their team members responsibly. They do not believe only in taking but are also ready to give back to their team members. While they seek input from their team members, they are also ready to provide the necessary information that their subordinates need to make key decisions. They always keep their team members and other stakeholders informed about key developments that might impact them.

  • Ability to manage conflicts:

Collaborative leaders are also excellent in terms of managing conflicts between groups or employees. They know that conflict is a necessary and inevitable part of a healthy work culture. The key does not lie in avoiding conflicts but in managing them creatively. They seek to resolve issues and concerns that might cause conflicts creatively and amicably. Collaborative leaders hold healthy discussions to resolve conflicts. Managing conflicts is a critical skill for any leader. However, collaborative leaders focus on managing them creatively so that they d not hurt workplace performance.

  • Excellent relationship manager:

Collaborative leaders seek to work with others. They do not work or decide in isolation. They seek to establish strong relationships with employees and other stakeholders including customers, and suppliers. When it comes to their workplace, they are excellent in terms of managing their relationships with colleagues. They offer everybody an opportunity to contribute and seek to maximize the trust in relationships.

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A few last words:

Collaborative leadership is not very difficult to practice. People can also learn collaborative leadership from other leaders. Such people must have a clear vision that they are going to make collaboration a part of their work culture. They must demonstrate collaboration in their behavior and lead by example so that their subordinates also follow. Apart from it, to be a collaborative leader, the focus must be on the environment and culture. Such leaders are team oriented, good listeners and seek to establish an environment and culture of collaboration at their workplace. The focus of a person who wants to be a collaborative leader must also be on trust and transparency. They keep relationships above everything else and take their staff seriously. When there is trust and transparency in relationships, creativity, inclusion and innovation will follow. To be an effective collaborative leader, a person will also need to focus on learning continuously and improving to have the best impact on his people.