An article in Entrepreneur Magazine argues that effective leaders always make relationships a priority.
“You tend to achieve your top priorities. So even though it may be hard to admit your need other people, you’ve got to make them a priority.”
BE A GIVER.
Great leaders know this, and find a way to live it.
Celebrating collaboration is the key, as far as I can see, in whatever setting a leader moves. But what kind of collaboration works? What leadership story drives the best collaborative relationships?
THE TEAMWORK STYLE IS OVER-RATED BECAUSE IT ASSUMES COMPETITION AGAINST OTHERS IS THE CORE GOAL
Americans love to call on teamwork, with the aim that everyone on the team rises to a position where they can be of most service as we play the game against our opponents. (We love our sports metaphors!) But teamwork is limiting because most teams have managers and hierarchies unless they’ve evolved past those old cultural patterns, so we end up with interconnected skill silos and roles and rules, and at the heart of it all is the idea of competition (another grand American obsession.) Growth is not solely driven by competition, and relationships mired in the bottom line are too easily dropped when money gets tight.
CRISIS COLLABORATION CREATES MARTYRS BECAUSE SELF-SACRIFICE IS THE NORM
Harry Potter had collaborators, and that’s why he defeated Voldemort. We like to think of him as the warrior leader, the magician with a heart, who attracted co-leaders/followers because of that heart. Potter is a model for business leadership, too, sparking a small movement asking “What Would Harry Potter Do?” But the problem with this collaborative model is that Potter’s greatest gift is his willingness to sacrifice himself, and his friends follow that model, almost to their deaths. That’s not sustainable for an entrepreneur, because it’s old-school martyr warrior collaboration, requiring a crisis. (Another human obsession — leaders who prevent apocalypse. Dangerous drama when applied to real life collaborations!) There’s a lot of passion in this model, and sometimes it’s necessary, but it’s easy to get addicted to the adrenaline rush of urgency. When a crisis passes, relationships based on self-sacrifice grow stale as collaborators face burn out and adapt to more normal rhythms.
VALUES-BASED COLLABORATION IS A MORE FLEXIBLE, RELATIONSHIP-BASED MODEL
A Ball State University team working toward interdisciplinary curriculum design articulates values-based collaboration this way: “We have found that if there are common emotional qualities, a collaborative relationship can remain collegial and productive. In our experience, the following stood out as ideal qualities: a cooperative and compromising attitude; respect for and equitable treatment of individual collaborator roles; trust in one another’s competence; ability to be vulnerable, open, honest, and willing to learn; and an enthusiasm for the projects pursued.” This model creates more sustainable relationships, as long as diverse disciplines and skills are integrated into the group’s collaboration. (This is not a common American model, because it blurs the roles of leaders and followers and requires more attention to personalities, gifts, and process. Leaders good at this model must be willing to learn, experiment and build long-term relationships that may challenge heartfelt beliefs, practices and roles.) But if we’re going to solve big questions in our businesses or our world, this model seems to be the best one.
BUT WHATEVER MODEL YOU CHOOSE, PAY ATTENTION TO THE NARRATIVE THAT DRIVES YOUR RELATIONSHIPS, AND MAKE SURE YOU’RE LIVING A STORY THAT SUPPORTS YOUR SUCCESS
Metaphors have power. If the story behind your relationships is healthy and sustainable, the Entrepreneur Magazine advice holds!
Learn more about collaborative leadership, and Carol Burbank‘s model of Honeycomb Leadership.