Posted by: Jaime Davis-Thomas, Research Leader, EcSELL Institute
You've probably heard of the concept "Collaborative Leadership", but are you aware how it can transform your sales organization? Keep reading.
Collaborative Leadership Defined
- It is leadership shown by a group that is acting collaboratively to solve agreed upon issues.
- It uses supportive and inclusive methods to ensure that all people affected by a decision are part of the change process.
- It requires a new notion of power...the more power we share, the more power we have to use 
Benefits of Collaborative Leadership
- Buy-in. Collaborative leadership encourages ownership of the enterprise, whether it's a coalition, an organization, a business, or a community project. By involving everyone in decision making and problem solving, it makes what people are doing theirs, rather than something imposed on them by someone else. The sense of ownership builds commitment to the common purpose.
- More involvement in implementation. Members of a collaborative group are more likely to be willing to take responsibility for implementing the group's action plan, because they were part of developing it.
- Builds Trust. Collaborative leadership, by its use of an open process and its encouragement of discussion and dialogue, builds trust among those involved in the enterprise.
- Elimination of turf issues. Similarly, collaborative leadership can help to address turf issues through establishing mutual trust, making sure everyone's concerns are heard, and helping organizations, factions, or individuals find common ground and work together.
- Access to more and better information and ideas. When all involved in an issue are party to addressing it, they bring with them a wealth of information, as well as a variety of perspectives. As a result, the solutions they arrive at are likely to be better than those developed in a vacuum, or by only a small number of people.
- Better opportunity for substantive results. The combination of ownership of the process and its results, trust, real collaboration, and better planning yields real success in the real world. In looking at successful community development efforts, Chrislip and Larson  found that nearly all were characterized by collaborative leadership.
- Modeling new leaders. Collaborative leadership helps to train new leaders from within the group, thus assuring continuity and commitment to the issues the group is addressing.
- Stakeholder empowerment. The inclusion of all stakeholders - anyone with an interest or involvement in an issue or organization - in problem-solving and decision-making not only prepares potential leaders, but leads to people taking more responsibility and caring more about what they do. It leads to better functioning in every sphere.
- Fundamental change for the better in the ways organizations operate. Collaborative leadership breeds more collaborative leadership and more collaboration, leading to a different way of looking at solving problems. This in turn brings more willingness to find common ground and common cause with others, more willingness to tackle new issues, and more effective and wide-reaching solutions. .
Key Lessons for Leaders
There have been a number of research projects and reviews of key lessons for Collaborative leaders but they all come down to some similar themes. Madeleine Carter, writing for the Center for Effective Public Policy as part of research project funded by the United States Department of Justice and State Justice Institute, defines five qualities of a collaborative leader:
- Willingness to take risks
- Eager listeners
- Passion for the cause
- Optimistic about the future
- Able to share knowledge, power and credit
In a similar way, Archer and Cameron list ten key lessons for a successful collaborative leader:
- Find the personal motive for collaborating
- Find ways of simplifying complex situations for your people
- Prepare for how you are going to handle conflict well in advance
- Recognize that there are some people or organizations you just can’t partner with
- Have the courage to act for the long term
- Actively manage the tension between focusing on delivery and on building relationships
- Invest in strong personal relationships at all levels
- Inject energy, passion and drive into your leadership style
- Have the confidence to share the credit generously
- Continually develop your interpersonal skills, in particular: empathy, patience, tenacity, holding difficult conversations, and coalition building.
Rod Newing writing in a Financial Times supplement special report says “If a collaboration is to be effective, each party must recognize and respect the different culture of the other”. And traditional development paths don’t prepare leaders well for this “traditional management development, is based on giving potential managers a team of people and a set of resources to control - and success is rewarded with more people and more resources to control. By contrast, collaboration requires managers to achieve success through people and resources outside their control and for this they have had no preparation”.
Please enjoy our recommended "Collaborative Leadership" Reading List for Sales Managers. It provides a list of books, resources, and website links on the topic of Collaborative Leadership. Enjoy!
 Leadership Development National Excellence Collaborative www.collaborativeleadership.org
 Chrislip, David D. and Carl E. Larson. Collaborative Leadership: How Citizens and Civic Leaders Can Make a Difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994.