True leaders realize ongoing progress and achievement require extensive collaboration across organizational boundaries–and that such collaboration leads to greater organizational and individual success.
Although it is easy to make unilateral decisions without considering the ultimate effect on others, as long as groups have a shared purpose and vision what some have called “collaborative leadership” is generally the best approach. True leaders who possess solid interpersonal relationship skills (empathy, patience, tenacity, an aptitude for managing difficult discussions, and the ability to build coalitions) are best equipped to thrive in a collaborative environment because they are able to set aside narrow self-interests in exchange for open discussions of how, with the support of others, they can achieve broader goals.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School published a Harvard Business Review article in which she spoke of leaders who recognize that there are critical business relationships, “that cannot be controlled by formal systems but require a dense web of interpersonal connections.“
One person defined collaborative leadership as, “the intentional and skillful management of relationships that enables others to succeed individually while accomplishing a collective outcome.”
A coercive leader might say: “Here’s where we’re going, here’s how we’re going to get there, and I could care less about how this impacts anyone else.” With coercion others have no choice, no voice, and (most likely) no commitment. With collaboration, however, everyone works together, with commitment, toward a common goal. As a collaborative / interdependent leader you accept the responsibility for developing (and ensuring the success of) a heterogeneous team that is focused on a shared purpose–and you know how to develop and sustain solid working relationships based on trust and accountability.
Dr. Stephen Covey said in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won’t be good leaders or team players. They’re not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organizational reality.“
True leaders understand that their success, and the success of the organizations they lead, is dependent on their vision and ability to lead coupled with the collaborative support of others–and they know how to garner that support through openness, candor, understanding, negotiation, cooperation, and compromise.