Collaborative Leadership

We’ve been seeing more articles on a practice called Collaborative Leadership. What is it, why is it important and how do you implement it?

Collaborative leadership is a management practice that aims to bring managers, executives, and staff out of silos to work together. In collaborative workplaces, information is shared organically, and everyone takes responsibility for the whole.

As I was researching the topic for this article, I ran across a program offered by Harvard professional development. You can find the link to the registration here if interested:

I also found a TED talk by Lorna Davis that I think does a terrific job differentiating between heroes and leaders and how dangerous it is to think, let alone rely on, one person having “the” answer. She shows why we need “radical interdependence” to make real change happen. I encourage you to watch this:

What I love about what Lorna talks about in this segment is the difference between how a hero announces a goal and then the well-thought-out and detailed plan on how the goal will be achieved. The “big reveal” if you will. Whereas in collaborative leadership, the leader will announce a well-thought-out goal that all can rally around, noting that there is no plan but knowing that the team will work together to come up with the plan to achieve the goal. Oftentimes with better results and efficiency.

Early in my career when working as an employee at various corporations, I embraced the hero leadership approach. It made me feel special, needed, important and powerful. It is highly addictive and why so few leaders can escape it.

Then, a CEO who I worked for asked me to attend a workshop on agile software development with the developer team at Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor Michigan ( I was confused about what a sales guy would do at a software development workshop but it intrigued me so I went. While the coding lingo was way over my head, I did learn a ton about storyboarding and the benefits of SCRUM.

I used what I learned from that experience and did a ton of reading on Agile and SCRUM. It helped greatly that during that time, SCRUM was growing beyond software development and becoming a key component in other fields such as project management, research, sales, marketing, and advanced technologies.

This approach help me answer my problem of how to be a sales and organizational management consultant in industries in that I had zero experience. I could no longer rely on hero leadership. I had to depend on collaborative leadership and today, I’m a recovering hero leader and fully embrace the collaborative approach.

I find this approach to be highly energetic, incredibly more effective and efficient, and perhaps best of all I don’t have to think of all the answers to problems. I help develop a goal and use a framework I’ve refined over the years to have my client teams detail the plan to achieve the goal. The buy-in is instantaneous, the process is highly rewarding, and the failures practically zero in the last 20 years of myself using this approach.

I find the people I work with grow personally and professionally. They are more engaged and take ownership of the execution of the plan. When we run into issues, they rally together to help solve the problem, not point fingers at each other. And when they win, the win is that much more fulfilling because they were all part of it vs sitting on the sidelines watching the heroes run the plays.

I’ve grown as a result of using the collaborative leadership approach. While I’m not completely cured of my hero tendencies, I can honestly say that our teams would never achieve the results they’ve achieved if I didn’t get out of their way, and we’re all better for it. Especially me.

I would encourage you, heroes, out there to learn about and give this approach a try. You will be glad you did. I promise!