Updated: September 11, 2023

Collaborative Leadership: Definition, Examples & Tips

Here is a guide to collaborative leadership.

In collaborative leadership, an executive solicits input from the team before choosing the process for specific projects. For example, video calls, brainstorming with whiteboards, and collaborating on shared documents. Collaborative leadership helps foster a cooperative and harmonic work environment.

This type of leader tends to have a firm grasp on team building best practices and possess team-building skills. These bosses may use leadership activities, connection-building activities or relationship-building exercises to improve cooperation. Collaborative leadership is a popular method for forming successful remote teams.

This article covers:

  • the definition of collaborative leadership
  • examples of collaborative leadership
  • collaborative leadership tips

Here is what you need to know

The definition of collaborative leadership

Collaborative leadership centers on teamwork and cooperation. This approach encourages active participation from team members and values the diverse perspectives they bring to the table. Leaders following this style prioritize creating an environment where open communication, trust-building, and consensus-building are the norm. The ultimate goal in this style is the pursuit of shared objectives.

In collaborative leadership, leaders are facilitators rather than authoritative figures. Executives actively encourage team members to voice their ideas, concerns, and feedback, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment. These leaders excel in building strong working relationships, resolving conflicts amicably, and aligning team efforts with company missions. By fostering a culture of collaboration, leaders use their team’s full potential. This style enables the team to tackle complex challenges and drive innovation, productivity, and responsibility.

Collaborative leadership is a great approach in today’s rapidly evolving world that relies on adaptability. This style helps organizations thrive by ensuring their teams use their combined talents and insights for the greater good.

Examples of collaborative leadership

There are many examples of contemporary workplace collaboration, including the following.

1. Establishing cross-functional projects

Cross-functional projects involve assembling a team with members from different departments or areas within an organization to work together on a specific task or project. The goal is to use the diverse skills, expertise, and perspectives of team members to tackle complex challenges and achieve better outcomes. This approach encourages collaboration and innovation by bringing together individuals with varied backgrounds and knowledge.

2. Utilizing project management software

Having several moving pieces in a process or a project might lead to ambiguous accountability. For example, employees might want to know which team member is responsible for following up on specific recurring issues or who to complete a new assignment. Employees will also want to know where to monitor assigned tasks and review priorities nearing due dates.

With the help of a project management tool, team members can work more efficiently and successfully on their projects. Staff can more easily verify all assigned tasks, go over assignment specifics, and submit work on time with simplified project management. As a manager, you may assign tasks to the right team members, monitor completed work, and get insight into the project’s progress.

Here is a list of project management software.

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3. Collaborating on shared files

With cloud-based solutions, leaders and team members can work together and exchange feedback on shared documents and spreadsheets in real time. Several employees can access, read, and edit documents concurrently. All users have access to the most recent version of the documents and can also view teammates’ modifications.

This approach eliminates the need to constantly email each other with various versions of the same file and reduces confusion. Monitoring changes based on multiple time stamps and users makes it easier for teams to track who is responsible for what modifications. An excellent example of such a tool is Google Drive.

4. Regularly hosting video calls and meetings

Collaboration is now more accessible and more efficient than ever, thanks to changes in how contemporary offices now hold meetings. A more thoughtful approach to meeting management takes workers’ time into account rather than mandating meetings at random times.

Meeting best practices include setting a date and time far in advance and handing out agendas pre-meeting. Workplaces can also hold meetings electronically using video calling technologies. This option ensures that all team members can actively participate, regardless of location. Video collaboration is now one of the most utilized methods of internet collaboration.

Check out this list of virtual meeting platforms and this guide to remote meeting etiquette.

5. Brainstorming with virtual whiteboards

Brainstorming sessions in the workplace can either be tedious or productive. You may feel left out of meetings when working from home since you do not have access to office supplies like whiteboards and flip charts. Furthermore, using the office’s actual whiteboards for brainstorming might make it harder to recall the specific points made by each participant. Once a member cleans the whiteboard, ideas are gone.

Therefore, more teams are increasingly embracing virtual whiteboards for brainstorming. When using these tools, workers do not have to be online simultaneously, thus enabling asynchronous brainstorming. When an epiphany strikes, teammates can scribble a quick note on the whiteboard, and their teammates can check it out anytime they come online.

Traits of collaborative leadership

Managers who realize the need to foster a collaborative atmosphere for corporate success adopt a collaborative leadership style. Individuals who possess these characteristics can improve the flow of information across various groups and remain calm in the face of resulting setbacks.

Firms depend on collaborative leaders to simplify group initiatives, manage resources, communicate information effectively, and accomplish critical goals. The following traits are common to all collaborative leaders, regardless of their specific skill sets or characteristics.

1. Avoids micromanagement

A collaborative leader understands that controlling all the company’s processes is impossible. Despite ensuring that personnel receive required training, enforcing compliance is difficult. Instead, influential leaders encourage and motivate their staff to attain objectives. These leaders avoid micromanaging, and their teams succeed. It is common knowledge among business leaders that micromanagement is counterproductive.

Check out this guide to micromanaging bosses.

2. Establishes trustworthiness

Trustworthiness is a fundamental trait in collaborative leadership. Being trustworthy means being reliable, consistent, and honest in your actions and words. Trustworthy leaders keep their promises, maintain confidentiality, and act with integrity. When team members trust their leader, they are more likely to be open and honest. This openness is essential for productive collaboration and building strong relationships within the team.

Here is a list of trust-building activities.

3. Listens actively

Active listening is a crucial communication skill that involves fully focusing on and understanding what others are saying. This process includes paying attention to nonverbal cues, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback to ensure the speaker feels heard and valued. Active listening fosters better understanding, trust, and empathy, making it an essential trait for effective collaboration and leadership.

4. Recognizes different motives

Leaders must have a strong desire to inspire personal and professional growth in every setting. These managers seek highly motivated employees and mentor them to boost the firm’s revenue. A collaborative leader learns about the motivations of the company’s many divisions, teams, and individuals. Those in positions of authority may use these factors to achieve the possible benefit for the company.

Check out this list of books on motivation.

5. Has talents and diverse skill sets

Collaborative leadership requires a wide range of abilities and talents. These skills include customer relationship management, stakeholder management, strategic planning, in-depth analysis, and motivational prowess.

Here are more essential leadership skills.

6. Fosters inter-department collaboration

Collaborative leadership aims to remove communication barriers between departments, managers, and customers to improve working relationships. A competent leader understands how to foster mutual respect and cooperation among the team members to get the greatest results.

Leaders go beyond weekly reports and statistics and get to know team members individually. Managing cross-functional teams involves strong interpersonal skills and authority.

7. Promotes delegation

A collaborative leader understands when and how to delegate while still fostering group agreement and debate. Every team member has a distinct skill set that a collaborative leader can maximize. The leader assists employees in identifying and applying their own unique set of talents.

8. Encourages risk-taking

Good leaders desire their employees’ dedication and career advancement. Employees are more likely to contribute innovative ideas and take risks when they work in an atmosphere that provides job security and rewards hard work. Morale rises when employees share their most incredible ideas and build on each other’s strengths. Consequently, the company will benefit from increasing levels of innovation and expansion.

9. Fosters transparency

Leaders that are open and honest with employees are more likely to succeed. To provide teams with the knowledge to proactively predict or address issues, these leaders actively solicit opinions and recommendations from others. This information includes corporate metrics and objectives that the team may utilize to make data-driven choices.

10. Manages conflict

Collaborative leaders, in contrast to popular opinion, do not avoid conflict. Conflict is a necessary aspect of every group’s dynamic, and these leaders know this fact. When a disagreement arises in the workplace, a collaborative leader encourages open conversation rather than ignoring or suppressing disagreements. The leader uses their conflict management abilities to resolve conflicts and strengthen ties within the team.

Check out this list of books on conflict management.

Tips for collaborative leadership

A collaborative leader can raise the team’s morale and boost productivity. The following are tips to become a more collaborative leader.

1. Set a clear vision

Setting a clear vision involves sharing a well-defined and inspiring picture of the future that the team or organization is working toward. This vision offers a sense of purpose and direction, aligning team members’ efforts and motivating them to work together toward a common goal. A clear vision also helps prevent uncertainty and ensures the whole team understands the objectives. This understanding is essential for effective collaboration and decision-making.

2. Share your strategy

Effective collaboration requires communicating your strategies to your team members and coworkers. By letting people in your firm know about your leadership strategy, you give colleagues the time to prepare for the changes that a more collaborative work environment will bring. This method makes transitioning into a new leadership style seamless.

3. Lead by example

Leading by example means demonstrating the behaviors and values that you expect from your team members. This process involves actively practicing the qualities of a collaborative leader, such as open communication, active listening, empathy, and a commitment to teamwork. When leaders lead by example, they set a standard for the team to follow. Establishing this standard makes it easier for team members to embrace and emulate desirable behaviors. Ultimately, leading by example fosters a culture of collaboration and mutual respect within the organization.

4. Develop teamwork skills

Learning new abilities and helping others is a great way to quickly foster a collaborative work atmosphere. Working in a team requires effective communication, attentive listening, and accountability. Employees can figure out the best approach by practicing these skills with the rest of the group. For example, your colleagues may prefer team gatherings to individual meetings or virtual collaboration.

Check out this guide to team management skills.

5. Promote a collaborative atmosphere

Building a collaborative work environment requires time and effort. However, team members will follow your example. A good option is to create a culture of open dialogue and encourage cooperation among employees. For example, you can identify opportunities to collaborate with staff or pair employees with new working partners or different departments. Adopting an open-door policy or organizing shared lunchtimes to foster camaraderie are two more strategies to build a collaborative atmosphere.

6. Empower your employees

Empowering your team to make the most of their talents will help them flourish as a unit. Knowing your coworkers’ strengths and weaknesses will help you place them in the right roles for maximum productivity. This strategy indicates that you appreciate each team member equally and removes the impression of an office hierarchy.

7. Encourage openness

Open communication is an essential collaborative leadership tip. It is vital to keep the lines of communication open between your team and the rest of the organization. By encouraging coworkers and supervisors to communicate, you can promote a sense of teamwork. An employee with problems can immediately get an answer if there is an open communication channel. Open communication benefits collaborative leaders since it builds the confidence of team members. Insights into different business sections and productivity will make the leader more effective.

Giving staff various options to communicate is a great approach to improve communication and collaboration. Employees can communicate effectively with multiple methods, such as email, instant messaging, and a workplace intranet. Any team member can easily offer thoughts and ideas during corporate, group, or personal discussions.

8. Stay focused

Teams tend to go off course. The leader’s or facilitator’s job is to keep an eye out for this pitfall and bring the discussion back to the original issue. In this case, new leaders face one of the most difficult challenges, especially if you are the one facilitating the meeting. Addressing the peripheral problems without detouring may be tricky.

Again, as a leader, your job is to gently encourage the team to keep their eyes on the prize. You must understand the importance of focus to steer the discussion in the right direction. Taking extra time to define the vision with the team may be helpful if they are having trouble staying on track.

Check out this list of books about focus.

9. Celebrate your victories

If you are working on a long-term or complicated project, then team members might not realize progress. Teams may benefit from taking time to commemorate achievements and significant anniversaries, whether in a formal or casual environment. The celebration does not have to be elaborate, as teams often want to know that their managers appreciate or recognize them.

Here is a list of virtual team celebration ideas.

10. Continually adjust to new situations

This style of leadership relies heavily on adaptability. The workplace will change due to your team’s growth, and you must adapt to shifts. Trends and current advancements typically determine how you and your team will operate, and it is crucial to remain aware of new developments.

You can adapt your collaboration techniques even if business practices change. For example, you may adjust to a changing work environment by rearranging team meetings, allocating more time to particular phases in a process, or assisting another department in achieving its goals.

Conclusion

Effective collaborative leadership requires reception to new ideas, viewpoints, and skillsets, as well as an understanding of the operational strengths of the business. Collaboration is not a rejection of conventional corporate structure. Instead, think of collaborative leadership as a modernized form that better represents the globalized, digitalized, interconnected modern world.

One of the most critical factors in contemporary businesses’ success is effective collaboration. With the collaborative leadership tips, you can implement the correct procedures and technology to increase teamwork and encourage successful cooperation among people, teams, and leaders.

For more advice, check out this list of books on teamwork and this guide to improving workplace cooperation.

Next, see our guide on servant leadership in the workplace, this one on good employee leadership qualities and learn more about employee collaboration.

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FAQ: Collaborative Leadership

Here are answers to questions about collaborative leadership

What is collaborative leadership?

Collaborative leadership is a style where executives grasp the value of interpersonal connections and cross-functional cooperation.

What are the examples of collaborative leadership?

Examples of collaborative leadership include whiteboard brainstorming, video calls, and the use of project management tools.

What are the benefits of collaborative leadership?

Some of the benefits of collaborative leadership are improved productivity, better employee engagement, and increased innovation.

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Author:

People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

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