The way we do business has changed forever. Office workers work from home. Technology is replacing manual labor. Gone are the days when CEOs called the shots; now, team-based decision-making is all the rage.
And not just in corporate environments. Many small business owners are embracing collaborative leadership styles in the workplace. If you are a leader who wants to build a team-oriented culture, it may be time to implement the practice.
What is collaborative leadership?
Collaborative leadership is a management style that encourages a team-oriented approach to problem-solving and decision-making. It is the opposite of the traditional top-down leadership model, which relies on one executive, such as the CEO, to make all decisions and give instructions. Instead, collaborative leadership includes employees in different departments and levels of the company.
For example, the founder solicits employee feedback about his operations instead of a business owner bossing his team around. They then collaborate to solve potential problems.
Why Collaboration Is Important in Leadership
Collaborative leadership fosters transparency, which can help build trust and loyalty among teams.
Making decisions together also allows everyone access to critical information and gives leaders an informed perspective of what is happening in the company at all levels.
For example, according to the Harvard Business Review, Nokia collaborated with its executives, but there was a problem: decision-making was closed to its employees. Their corporate structure is partly why they failed to notice and react to the growing threat of smartphones.
Failing to encourage transparency and collaborative problem-solving can hurt a company’s growth and innovation. Ultimately, Nokia sold its mobile phones and devices division to Microsoft in 2014 after failing to compete with iPhone and Android.
With collaborative leadership, important employee issues can be heard sooner, improving the company’s ability to adapt to challenges.
Benefits of collaborative leadership
Collaborative leadership is a powerful tool for any team, regardless of size or industry. It encourages everyone to contribute ideas and work together towards a common goal.
This creates a work culture that is open, honest, and innovative. Other advantages include:
Faster Decision Making: The more people come together, the faster a solution can be found.
More innovation: A team with different knowledge and perspectives can pool their ideas to identify problems, overcome them, and create new products.
Increased Productivity: Employees are more motivated to work hard when there is a shared goal and a sense of accomplishment.
Improved Communication: Leaders and employees will talk more and share information, which helps create a holistic picture of the company and its needs.
Having decision-making concentrated on one or a few people can create process bottlenecks, hurting the organization’s speed in executing solutions.
On the other hand, collaborative leadership allows founders to draw on the expertise of others. Spreading the load also helps companies scale, as multiple decision-makers can solve challenges rather than relying on just one.
Collaborative Leadership Styles
There is no one way to operate as a collaborative leader, but there are two popular styles used by companies today:
Participative leadership: A style of shared power that gives everyone responsibility and the opportunity to contribute to company decision-making.
Transformational Leadership: Leaders focus less on creating strategies and making decisions and instead encourage and inspire teams to perform better and shape the organization’s success.
For example, a participative leader works directly with teams to discuss problems, ideas, and solutions. Everyone works together to decide the future of the projects and the company. Much of the leader’s day is spent with employees rather than just executives.
A transformational leader spends one-on-one time with employees, listens to their feedback, and articulates company goals to help employees take ownership of their roles and achieve goals.
The leader is also good at building relationships and trust with workers. Unlike traditional leaders, transformational leadership is unafraid to challenge the status quo, take risks, and solicit team input.
Characteristics of collaborative leadership
For team-focused leadership to work, executives must have specific qualities and characteristics, such as a willingness to listen to others and employ their ideas (even if they don’t agree 100%).
American Express surveyed Millennials on the top qualities a leader should have. The qualities listed were:
The report also shows that Millennials believe that the command and control model of the 20th century is counterproductive and does not benefit business.
If you want to become a collaborative leader, here are other traits you could adopt:
Association and collaboration with others.
- Active listening.
- Celebrate victories.
- Learn from failures.
- Empower employees.
- Trust other team members.