By Jocelyne Daw
Collaborative leadership is critical to progress in today’s ever-changing society. A more collaborative model allows for greater social and business value creation and a better leveraging of resources. Creating shared value requires employees to develop new collaborative leadership skills that enable them to build innovative, deeper relationships. The recent Shared Value Leadership Summit highlighted the importance of partnerships and new forms of collaboration – inside and outside of an organization. To unlock the full potential of shared value in helping to resolve today’s toughest problems demands collaborating with others in businesses, governments, and civil society.
This challenge placed upon leaders to move towards a genuinely more collaborative model is a BIG one. No one sector can stand outside the system and attempt to address social problems alone. We need to work together across sectors to advance social change. More and more, collaboration is happening and if we can build on this momentum to combine the cutting-edge ideas from business with innovative knowledge from nonprofits and the policy power of government, we can truly transform our societies for the better.
Collaborative leaders take a more open approach. Team building and power sharing replace the traditional forms of organizational hierarchy. Shared value collaboration encourages creative thinking, internal “crowd sourcing” and a new business model that enables collaboration across sectors as has never happened before.
Building Collaborative Leadership
Collaborative leadership requires very distinct characteristics in order to pursue such complex endeavors. With a future that is most definitely collaborative here are a few best practices identified at the Shared Value Leadership Summit:
- Power is greatest in the collective team: The new approach of collaborative leadership recognizes that power is greatest in a collective team. By encouraging equal participation across all levels, collaborative leaders allow solutions to develop from the best ideas of the group and take a team approach to problem solving.
- Information is for sharing: Open information sharing is the cornerstone of collaborative leadership. Getting everyone on the same page in a project requires information sharing. Education also plays a role. The more cross training available, the more creative approaches to problem solving can develop and be implemented.
- Trust is paramount: The basis of collaborative leadership is trust. Because team members are given more responsibility for their work, leaders are often more involved in the process. This means that as issues arise they are often dealt with swiftly. Collaborative leaders look for the root cause of conflict as it arises, and address solutions promptly to keep work moving forward.
- Co-creation of strategy and joint problem solving: In a collaborative environment, strategies, action plans and solutions are brainstormed among team members. Collaborative leaders recognize the power of a group approach to co-creation to secure the best ideas and buy-in from the collective.
Rethinking Partnerships for Greater Shared Value
How companies undertake partnerships to create shared value was discussed extensively at the Leadership Summit. Partnerships are seen as key and innovative new forms of collaboration are being developed, where unlikely alliances are bringing unexpected returns, crossing nontraditional boundaries, and building long-term solutions to immense social problems. In the end, partnering is all about people—more specifically about connections between people. Organizations must choose to integrate partnership into their strategy and business culture, thus inspiring co-creativity in every process and unleashing shared value that works for all.
Daniel Lee, Executive Director of the Levi-Strauss Foundation shared the way their company is rethinking their partnerships and relationships with nonprofit organizations to achieve greater shared value for all.
Principles for Successful Partnerships
While best practices help build collaboration skills and new thinking helps advance partnerships, core principles of partnership provide the foundation for building a successful collaboration. The Partnership Brokers Association provides this framework as well as comprehensive training in building collaborative partnerships for a sustainable work.
- Equity: ‘Equity’ is critical in a relationship where there are wide divergences in power, resources and influence. Equity is not the same as ‘equality’. Equity implies an equal right to be at the table and a validation of those contributions that are not measurable simply in terms of cash value or public profile.
- Transparency: Openness and honesty in working relationships are pre-conditions of trust – an important ingredient of most successful partnership. Only with transparent working will a partnership be truly accountable to its partners, donors and other stakeholders.
- Mutual Benefit: If all partners are expected to contribute to the partnership they should also be entitled to benefit from the partnership. A healthy partnership will work towards achieving specific benefits for each partner over and above the common benefits to all partners. Only in this way will the partnership ensure the continuing commitment of partners and therefore be sustainable.