Industry Insights

What is Collaborative Leadership Style & How to Apply it in Business?

Posted by Gyzel Pialat on Jan 23, 2020 4:03:52 PM

It might be all coming to a dramatic end for top-down hierarchies in the workplace. Management, take a hike, the future has Collaborative Leadership written all over it.

The times are changing, but why?

The way we work is going through a global upheaval of sorts. Automation has threatened job security, the internet has dispersed information and data in unexpected ways, and remote work opportunities have led to distributed teams doing their work on the beach (amongst other more logical places). Collaboration is blossoming, the upper echelons of management fear their pre-installed divisions, and we are all here to witness bold and beautiful partnerships forge between different departments, teams, ideologies, and skill sets. 

Everything is dynamic and constantly evolving, much faster than traditional organizations will admit that they can handle. Self-managed teams, multi-disciplined individuals, innovative millennial minds, and other types of non-traditional professionals are making sure that the collaborative leadership style comes into the foray. 

Goodbye bosses, hello collaborative leaders…

So, let’s start by explaining what the collaborative leadership style is. In this style of leadership, results are driven by teams that are working seamlessly across real and imagined boundaries, internally, externally, and organizationally. A collaborative leader does many things, like handling conflict in a way that makes progress, distributing control fairly, and building solid lasting relationships. There’s no bossing around to be found here. 

What’s the difference between a collaborative leader and a traditional leader?


Collaborative leaders will…

  • Gain power from the collective intelligence and creativity and take the best ideas from the group in order to solve problems and make plans
  • Make information open-source and sharable, helping everyone find opportunities to develop and support one another
  • Give everyone a voice and welcome suggestions and ideas, even hosting workshops that allow for brainstorming and unique insights to come to fruition
  • Build trust and ensure that resources (time, money, and materials) are given out where they are needed most to make sure that people can do their jobs efficiently
  • Work together to set some housekeeping rules to make sure there is general order, but will allow for roles and permissions to evolve and change in the name of progress
  • Look for the root causes of any problems and try to solve them there, rather than offering short term or meaningless solutions
  • Make sure that everyone feels that they’re on a level playing field, and that typical performance reviews are not necessary as long as deserved praise, warranted criticism, and sufficient education are used instead


Traditional leaders will...

  • Be the singular source of authority, often earning this position based on how long they’ve been with the company
  • Horde information that they believe will help them assert authority
  • Generate ideas in boardroom meetings at the highest level in most instances. Employees must book meetings and permission must be made in order to make suggestions. Ideas are kept under wraps until they’re ready to be to turned into instructions
  • Monitor resources heavily and without a great deal of trust, putting an added anxiety or pressure on projects
  • Enforce outdated policies and regulations that employees must adhere to. Managers are often hired as enforcers of these rules
  • Show little leniency towards employee issues, dealing with them in a reactive rather than proactive way
  • Give performance reviews that are in line with the corporate policy, rather than giving a human account of productivity, error, and good work


Do you have the makings of a collaborative leader already?

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you address a situation head-on and respectfully, or do you use passive aggression and sarcasm?
  2. Do you do what you say you are going to do, or are you seen as flaky and unreliable?
  3. Do you prefer transparency over secrecy?
  4. Are you willing to make hard decisions, be accountable for their outcomes, and do their outcomes pose a threat to you?
  5. Do you see resources as tools to get things moving forward, or do they belong to departments and rigid budgets?
  6. How are you going to reward and incentivise position contribution to stop your team members from hiding at the back?
  7. Are you a storyteller who shares constructive experiences from meetings, travels, and the people who meet outside your organization?
  8. Do you encourage people to have joint responsibilities rather than individual goals?
  9. Do you set targets and benchmarks for learning and development as well as KPIs?
  10. Can you get behind an idea that you might not necessarily agree with if you’ve been outvoted or outdebated?


A few final words about collaborative leadership…

The collaborative leadership style will be welcomed into the offices and premises of forward-thinking businesses before you know it. The top-down hierarchical approach is headed for early retirement. Businesses, companies, and communities don’t want authoritarians, they want to be led, inspired and engaged while looking at one another, rather than looking up.

If you found this article useful, make sure to read our article on expert insights for leadership and collaboration or download our latest white paper.

Download Our Future-Proof Leaders Whitepaper

Topics: Leadership Development, Interactive

More Insights

The Future of Learning is Experiential (and Virtual)

Recent trends in the learning industry point towards an...

Learn More

A 5-Step Plan to Improving Diversity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Not only is improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace...

Learn More

3 Actions to Enhance Customer Centricity in the Workplace

Customer centricity is so much more than a marketing tactic,...

Learn More

Quiz: How Customer-Centric is Your Organization?

A customer-centric organization will put customers at the core...

Learn More

Learning & Development Trends for 2021 and Beyond

In 2021, the impact of Learning and Development (L&D) within...

Learn More