'Leadership' and 'collaboration' are two buzzwords routinely used in the context of improving the performance of a business by taking advantage of the contributions each worker makes. It is fascinating to study the concepts associated with these two words, especially given that business cultures can be so different. Yet the goal at the end of every leadership and collaboration discussion should be this, regardless of business culture: leadership and collaboration are most effective when they intersect at that place where they go beyond theory to produce real results.
Siles and Vacuums
Discussions about leadership tend to focus on developing strong leaders who know how to motivate teams to do what they do better. Strong leaders are defined as people with clear vision, the ability to motivate, the ability to see the big picture, and an attitude that unifies rather than divides.
On the other hand, discussions revolving around collaboration focus on bringing together every member of the team, regardless of title or function, in a co-dependent environment in which every member contributes equally. The point of collaboration is to take the best that each team member has to offer and put it all together to create the whole. Yet there is a problem.
The typical American workplace culture that attempts to address leadership and collaboration tends to create what is known in the business world as the 'silo effect'. The silo effect is essentially a situation in which every member of a team views him/herself as isolated within the scope of title and role. While every team member may contribute to the collaborative effort, no member steps outside his or her defined title and role.
In a typical European workplace culture, just the opposite happens. There is so much focus on collaboration and teamwork that businesses can create a vacuum of true leadership. Teams have trouble making decisions; they have trouble moving forward quickly enough to satisfy clients because leadership is lacking.
The Intersection of Leadership and Collaboration
Common sense seems to dictate there must be a way to pursue both leadership and collaboration in the same environment, with positive results. It turns out there is. Take a company like ours, for example, a company that offers payroll for small business owners. Our industry is one that is constantly evolving to meet the needs of customers and the ever-changing regulatory compliance landscape.
Our industry needs strong leaders capable of vision-casting and motivation. These leaders also need to be able to make decisions and move forward with them. But they must do so in an environment that invites collaboration among team members. So how does a company accomplish this? Rather than focusing on leadership and collaboration, the focus should be on collaborative leadership.
Collaborative leadership creates an environment in which a team either fails or succeeds together. It is similar to pro football in many respects. A football team may have one or two star players, but those players cannot defeat an opponent on their own. A successful team requires a minimum of 22 players all working together to win.
The beauty of collaborative leadership is that the natural leaders on the team will step up and assume greater responsibilities for the benefit of the team. Those who are not natural leaders will still put forth their best effort, knowing that the team will only succeed if everyone works together.
Leadership and collaboration can meet in the workplace to very good results. It is a matter of taking advantage of the normal order of things rather than trying to control leadership and collaboration artificially through office culture.