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Collaborative Leadership​

to Drive Innovation and Equitable Participation at Work

How we work has changed considerably in the 21st century. The barriers employees must overcome to collaborate are multi-faceted and complex.

Collaborators are no longer located at a single office or in a specific city, region, or continent, but live all around the world. The office, as traditionally understood, is now located in the cloud, and many teams have people who work at different times of the day and may never meet in person. In this environment, it can be challenging to effectively engage inclusive communication practices that cultivate a sense of belonging, especially as a leader.

Collaborative leadership offers one powerful approach to cultivate a sense of belonging that can also help to establish equitable communication practices among employees and across organizations.

Collaborative teams are 5x more likely to be high-performing in creativity and innovation, as reported by Deloitte.

In a ChatGPT world, human and collaborative leadership skills are more critical than ever.

Working Equitably in the 21st Century

For many employees, the workplace can feel daunting. As one team ends their workday another one begins theirs in a different time zone. A teammate finishes a task and another initiates the next phase of the project where your role is more ambiguous. Work today requires constant coordination and ad hoc collaboration, and when employees are not located in the same space, communication can feel transactional or disengaged. While employees are networked by their workplace tools and have “partial membership in multiple networks and rely less on permanent memberships in multiple groups” (Rainie and Wellman, 2012), how we communicate at work must evolve to meet networked dynamics in inclusive ways.

Not only has how we communicate shifted, so has what our work focuses on. Studies of the workplace tell us that today’s organizations are more often trying to solve “wicked problems” as a form of business development (Spinuzzi, 2015). Wicked problems involve pollution, hunger, or access to clean water—they are problems that can be characterized by how difficult they are to even define (see Rittel and Webber, 1973; Buchannan, 1992). Since so many multinational organizations are developing experiences for people, market factors require organizations to move quickly to be competitive on the marketplace. The need to move fast can also make people feel left behind. Also, moving so quickly can make building relationships difficult to do.

The barriers employees must overcome to collaborate are multi-faceted and complex… the office, as traditionally understood, is now located in the cloud.

Five Key Qualities of Collaborative Leadership

Collaborative Leadership is rooted in facilitation and the core skills essential to facilitation. Skillful facilitators are purposed, inclusive, clear, crafted, and adaptive.

1. Purposed

Purpose is everything. Without a guiding north star, a meeting can feel like a waste of time. Collaborative leaders make purposeful decisions across their work.

2. Inclusive

Modern businesses regularly tout their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet that value does not always make its way to team members. Collaborative leaders have the unique opportunity to make a significant impact to the inclusivity goals of the organization simply by the way they guide people.

3. Clear

Corporate communication often seems to exist at two extremes, either overwhelming or failing to be transparent. Collaborative leaders clearly invite employees in, making them a part of the collaborative process rather than a recipient of endless memos.

4. Crafted

Collaborative leadership, closely related to the design thinking process, embraces uncertainty and a holistic perspective to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of a problem. Collaborative leaders foster a crafted mindset that prioritizes experiences over rigid agendas.

5. Adaptive

Adaptability is essential for leaders, serving as the foundation for genuine progress and unity in a rapidly changing world. Collaborative leaders see adaptability as more than just a buzzword; it’s a critical trait for fostering collaboration and effective leadership.

Download the Collaborative Leadership White Paper

In the white paper, we further define collaborative leadership, explore the five key collaborative leadership qualities, and show how it can help your organization meet its goals for shared leadership and enhance a sense of belonging.