To keep up with shifting employee expectations, companies need to revise their leadership styles. Employees are more interested in working for companies that treat them with respect and value their input and expertise. As a result, more companies are incorporating collaborative leadership into their management style.
And it makes sense; you hired these employees because you saw something to believe in. So why wouldn’t you want to draw from their expertise and incorporate them in the decision-making process?
So let’s take a look at what collaborative leadership looks like and how you can incorporate these competitive advantages into your company.
The Fundamentals of Collaborative Leadership
In the past, some offices operated like a dictatorship; there was one leader and everyone’s job was to follow their commands without question. No one received insight into how those decisions were made.
Leaders today are trying a new approach: a collaborative leadership style. Collaborative leadership is about making decisions as a group and sharing the responsibility of management. In this model, leaders of different teams work together as a unit to communicate needs and goals to create solutions together.
For example, consider a marketing company; lots of different skills go into one marketing campaign. The previous model worked where one person made all the decisions and told each team how to do their jobs.
But how is this one person supposed to be an expert on every part of a marketing campaign? Is someone who has a general knowledge of each component going to make decisions better than a dedicated expert?
In the new model, collaborative leaders work together to make decisions. The heads of graphic design, copywriting, paid advertising, and data analysis will work together because they recognize that diverse teams with unique skill sets will make better decisions than one person. This process of collaborative working enables experts to make the decisions that impact their team the most, and it filters down into the way these leaders work with their teams. They recognize how helpful it is for multiple people to weigh in on a problem, so they will more readily ask their teams for their input.
The collaborative leadership approach focuses on decentralizing the power of a team from one leader and engaging everyone in the decision-making process.
Having one person command and control the team from a position of power makes the people working under them feel powerless. This makes them unwilling to offer their opinions, since they know they won’t be valued.
Collaborative cultures allow everyone to feel like they can have a say in the direction of the project. Everyone can work together to solve problems, rather than taking blind direction from one person.
The Benefits of Collaborative Leadership
Teams that practice collaboration see higher rates of engagement and productivity. When team members feel that their contributions are being valued, they’re more likely to continue offering ideas and suggestions. Having an encouraging manager builds trust among the team.
As the saying goes, two heads are better than one; so what about an entire office team? The collective intelligence of the group helps in the brainstorming and refining process. Rather than relying on one person to come up with all the ideas and strategies, one person can offer an initial idea, others can help shape it, and people with logistical minds can come up with clear steps for the team to take in order to reach their goal.
Instead of keeping plans close to their chest, it’s best for leaders to share information so everyone on the team knows they’re on the same page and working towards the same goal. It’s hard to feel motivated when you’re forced to blindly follow someone’s directions without being given a reason why. Giving the whole team access to all the information they need enables them to make the best decisions during their individual tasks.
People work best when they have the big picture.
How to Incorporate Collaborative Leadership Into Your Company
The most important part of facilitating a collaborative environment is having leaders that embody a collaborative spirit. Employees can quickly tell when a leader is disingenuous, and they won’t feel inspired to participate if they don’t think their suggestions will be taken to heart. This leadership style only works when managers take the time to invest in their employees.
Instead of having one person in charge, you can create a cross-functional leadership team to share the responsibilities. With this method, you can have a variety of people in charge who have different skill sets. When there’s only one person in charge, it’s hard for them to be an expert on every element of the project. Having a management team enables the decision-making to come from a team of experts, rather than one person with a general knowledge of each process.
When you establish this team, make sure they incorporate collaborative leadership into the way they run their individual teams as well.
When running meetings, make sure you open up the floor for discussion and actively thank people when they answer. Show that you appreciate the participation by recognizing their contribution. You can ask for suggestions, but if people don’t believe they’ll be taken seriously, they won’t speak up. Make sure you run your meetings as a discussion, rather than a lecture.
Once you delegate the tasks to your team, check in on them to see if they have any suggestions to make their project even more effective. Maybe one of the sets of instructions doesn’t make sense to them. Ask them for their input so you can improve the instructions for the next person working on the project.
Even if remote working is a part of your team’s infrastructure, you can still use collaborative leadership. Use the communication tools you have at your disposal to facilitate active communication.
- Video calls: Just because you aren’t in the same room doesn’t mean only one person should participate. Even if it seems like a greater effort over video, make sure everyone stays engaged and participates actively. Make use of the raised hands feature in case someone has a difficult time getting a word in edgewise.
- Chats: If your group uses a program like Slack or Microsoft Teams, use it! Be accessible for people to get a quick answer from you and don’t be afraid to reach out to check-in.
Hone Your Management Style Today
As a manager, you have the power to continuously grow and change your leadership style to best match the needs of your team. You don’t need to stay the same from day to day; gradually evolving your techniques gives you the chance to experiment with what works and what doesn’t work for your team. Approach every problem with an open mind and rely on your team members to work together and accomplish the goal.
Collaborative leadership opens the door to unlocking your team’s potential and boosting general morale. Imagine what your team could accomplish if they all worked at their peak. If you want to learn more about developing your management skills and becoming the best leader you can be, join WBD! Join a community of women who are all working towards becoming their best selves. Find out what WBD can do for you today!
Author, Artist, Photographer.
Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.
She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.
She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.