Fresh thinking


A new style of ‘organisational thinking’ has arrived, explains Partner to Succeed project manager Chloe Teale – Collaborative Leadership

It wasn’t long ago that the traditional ‘command and control’ style of operation was the default modus operandi for most businesses. Not anymore.

In a world where technological developments continue to chip away at barriers associated with distance, location and language, businesses have become nimbler and better connected forcing leaders to radically adapt their organisational thinking and structures.

In response to the increasingly interconnected business environment, a new and rapidly evolving style of organisational thinking has arrived: ‘Collaborative Leadership’.

According to the latest Harvard Business Review article ‘Are You a Collaborative Leader?’ (July-Aug 2011), Collaborative Leadership is “…the capacity to engage people and groups outside one’s formal control and inspire them to work toward common goals – despite differences in convictions, cultural values, and operating norms”.

The basic premise behind this style of leadership shares much in common with the concept of the ‘Networked Entrepreneur’ that we spoke about in our previous article, but the key difference is the ability to engage with people and groups outside one’s formal control.

The Partner to Succeed team is observing at first hand that the most successful collaborations are those with a healthy mix of experienced people combined with newcomers from a variety of industries and a ‘Collaborative Leader’ at the helm, who recognises the need to regularly step outside of their comfort zone.

But how do you take those first steps towards developing a collaborative leadership style when so much of your focus today will need to be upon your own business? It’s certainly easier said than done, and stepping out of our comfort zones to regularly engage with organisations that we’ve never come across before can feel quite intimidating.

Thankfully it doesn’t have to be this way. In January, Partner to Succeed launched a series of Collaboration Clubs with the principle aim of providing locally based businesses with collaborative solutions to their priority business challenges such as Sales Growth, Resource Efficiency and Managing Capacity. Clubs also provide attendees with the ideal environment to develop their Collaborative Leadership skills.

Matthew Clarke, director of Kernowpods. com, recently completed a Sales Growth Collaboration Club as part of his innovative business growth strategy. And he commented “the key thing you begin to appreciate when talking about collaboration is that other businesses can help you rather than compete with you, and I have learned to embrace this for the betterment of my service.”

In summary, modern collaborative leadership is about pro-actively bringing together a wide variety of people sometimes with conflicting beliefs and opinions to generate extraordinary solutions to everyday business challenges.

I’ll leave you with a quote from ‘Are You a Collaborative Leader?’ which hopefully will inspire you: “Differences in convictions, cultural values, and operating norms inevitably add complexity to collaborative efforts. But they also make them richer, more innovative, and more valuable. Getting that value is the heart of collaborative leadership.” ‘Are you a Collaborative Leader?’ can be downloaded from

This article first appeared in the August/September 2011 issue of Business Cornwall magazine