Updated: May 30, 2020
I am sure that, by now, you have already heard, quite a number of times already, phrases like empower your employees, give your team members a sense of belonging, make you colleagues feel valued, inspire, create a warm environment and so on. Not sure if I captured all encouraging messages for middle-layer managers, however experience tells that these are mostly used in the corporate world.
And they sound incredible. Inspirational. Radiant. Motivational. Human. However, how many times have you felt that such messages are dissonant with other tasks that have been given to you? How many instances were there when you believed that this was simply a bunch of nonsense compared with, say, the recurrent reporting rhythm?
Just because sometimes you feel dissonant messages, does not necessarily mean they really are. They might be, and for sure there are dissonant leaders out there, but at the same time there always is a story behind each such message that, if known, would give a certain sense of reality to both aforementioned facets: the inspirational messages and the (apparent) dissonant messages. But such stories are not and should not be made public to a broader audience, either because they contain competitive advantage edge, strategic actions or simply other pieces of information that should not leak, no matter what. After all, there is a reason for which the affirmation "above my paygrade" was invented and the competitive landscape is extremely cruel, especially when it comes to publicly listed companies (to say the least).
So, what does this have to do with collaborative leadership? Well... it's "simplex" (simple and complex at the same time), but I will take a shot at it. Ideally, senior leadership should understand concerns and (mental) blockers that haunt mid or entry level managers - and I have seen enough examples that they do understand and act accordingly with compassion and humbleness. However, what if they don't? What is your positioning towards such a situation, when you senior leader appears to be deaf or unwilling to listen? Are you going to "cross that line" towards individual contributors and complain about your boss (in which case, what is the example you are, giving your team members)? Or are you going to step up and do everything in your power to be that leader that people will follow?
If you chose to step up, this is the exact moment when collaborative leadership kicks in. It is the moment when humbly accept input from others, allow them to deliver and contribute, seek for collaboration opportunities and give your team members the opportunity to step up and shine by themselves. Yes, it is difficult to accept accountability and give away responsibility, but this will the the subject for another article. Especially if you are dealing with an obtuse leader but isn't this what leadership is all about?
What is about to follow has not been written in a book (yet!), since I experienced it myself during the last 3 years or so, so please follow it with compassion and understanding.
I had a dream! And my dream was to partner with like professionals and create an entity that would change the world. Not tomorrow but maybe 10 years from now. And maybe not the entire world but the world surrounding us, as a group. I failed twice during the last 3 years and the reason was unknown to me until recently, when I decided to give it another/different try.
What was the difference? Me. I started this idea 3 years back by attempting to be the prime violin myself. And failed twice as I was not aware about my own self in terms of what I can and what I cannot deliver in good time. In 2020 I (re)started the initiative with a spin and gave space for other people to contribute and lead. All I needed to do is ignite the energy that existed already (latent from previous attempts) within the group and then simply let go. Amazing! We are now microns away to stating our message to the world and starting our journey: we have our mission, we have our content, we have a good idea about what we want to do and we have the energy to do it.
How did I do it? I had to deal with personal barriers, ambitions and concerns but I also had a "secret weapon" with me: the power of self-coaching aka introspection. When I started to ask myself tough questions gravitating around this particular subject, I needed to give myself the answers. It was not easy but it was definitely rewarding. Especially now, when I am enjoying almost daily the flamboyant leadership of my partners.
Main takeaway? Simple questions and an invitation to a discussion: how do you exhibit collaborative leadership (with your teams, peers, family, friends)? How do you provide space to allow others to shine? How do you encourage contribution? How are you humble?
Drop me a note and let's chat.