This is the fourth post in a series of posts focused on developing a culture of ongoing development through fostering collaborative learning communities.

Collaborative learning communities need effective leadership which requires moving from a traditional hierarchical top down leadership model which is ‘authoritative’ to one which is more self-governing and enables joint-decision making.

Collaborative leaders guide and co-ordinate their staff rather than conquer and rule, and put aside their authoritative status to foster dicussion and deliberation.

Collaborative leadership is transformative and facilitative through a servant leadership model, where staff are motivated to work together to achieve a shared purpose, as “when the leader leads well, the people say they did it themselves” (Lao-tzu, as quoted in London, 1995).

A good collaborative leader will also ensure that their team can function without them by empowering the team to make decisions and plan ahead collectively.  This happens through a ‘visionary leadership approach’, where the group focuses on collectively achieving the results of a shared vision.

The collaborative leader facilitates the involvement of various members of the team based on their skills sets and helps design effective pathways to action.  Most importantly, group successes are celebrated.

Essential skills of the effective collaborative leader include:

  • lifelong learning
  • planning, monitoring and following up
  • communicating and delegating to maximise performance
  • motivating, empowering, influencing and developing others
  • identifying problems then showing initiative and good judgement
  • relationship building

Collaborative leadership is based on the fundamental principles that an individual can only truly understand change and innovative when they have been part of the process and can see the outputs of their own decision-making.

However, collaborative leadership does have its limitations so there will be times when the collaborative leader is best not to encourage collaboration:

  • it is time consuming and is not effective for situations which require quick decision making
  • power inequalities within the group need to be clearly managed
  • consensus and joint decision making means that the common good needs to override the interests of a few
  • requires small groups so larger groups may need to split up into smaller groups with mechanisms to share and collaborate
  • collaborative groups are ineffective if they do not have the power to implement their own decisions

The next post will discuss strategies of building collaborative workplaces, but please share your collaborative leadership stories with us here.
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This post was written on an article by Scott London (1995) called “Collaboration and Community

Leading a collaborative community

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