Collaboration: A Different Leadership Style

Laura Dallas Burford is the founder of LAD Enterprizes, a management consulting firm that partners with consultants as well as internal and external consulting organizations to successfully build the operational and delivery aspects of their practices. Laura appreciates feedback on her articles and can be reached at She is the author of Project Management for Flat Organizations.

As you stare at the diagrams on the white board, concerns about the complexity of the next assignment flash in front of your eyes. The concerns include an inflexible timeline and multi-departmental global coordination efforts. You realize the project’s success requires creativity and innovation by the entire team, but the organization’s consensus-building culture will make it difficult--if not impossible--to meet required timelines and coordinate departmental efforts. To manage this project, a different leadership style is required, but what?

A close colleague suggests adapting and changing to a collaborative leadership style. She explained collaborative leadership is “the capacity to engage people and groups outside one’s formal control and inspire them to work toward common goals.” 1

When collaborating, everyone provides ideas and suggestions to resolve a challenge or meet a specific need--but not everyone needs to agree on the solution, as with consensus. Frequently, creativity and innovation leads to ideas and potential solutions never considered. An authority figure(s) decides on the solution after listening, then evaluating the ideas and suggestions. Nevertheless, everyone needs to understand the solution and reason. The colleague continued: It is a great approach when managing complex, multi-departmental projects that include team …

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