Characteristics of a Great Collaborative Leader

I’ve had the privilege and pain of watching many meetings of great minds turn into ego contests, go way beyond schedule…and accomplish nothing, or less.   It’s not easy to turn a bunch of brilliant idiots into a collection of amazing contributors, but it’s possible.

Great collaborative leaders are a rare but admirable type.  They are “impresarios” who work their magic on the participants, the agenda, and even details such as the setting the stage and creating the appropriate environment, to ensure the group will arrive at the best decisions.  If you aren’t such a person, and you have an important collaboration at hand, I strongly advise you to either finding someone who is or to try and learn the skills needed as well as you can.

One of the most important roles of a collaborative leader is to build up trust in the process.  A great leader makes people feel as if everyone has equal opportunity, and all ideas, no matter how potentially disruptive, are welcome.  Such a leader wants people to “think out of the box” and to feel like innovation is encouraged, not penalized.  They make it cool to not have ego invested in the outcome.

Such leaders also reach out, even to enemies.  They know that if someone is likely to lob a grenade at a project, involving them early on may disarm or at least neutralize them.  A great leader also includes divergent perspectives – people from unrelated disciplines or even competitors, because they know that will help avoid groupthink and inspire others to be innovative.  They don’t avoid conflict, rather they manage it.  One classic technique is to summarize the key points of strong minded participants in advance in non-emotional terms…the Derek Bok technique.   Emotionalism is unavoidable, but the best leaders know how to defuse conflict or emotion, and by doing so they reassure everyone that they are participating in a fair, safe, and open discussion.  Sometimes self-deprecatory humor can pull a difficult situation back from the abyss authentic jordans for sale.

When planning collaboration, leaders must consider the following:

  1. Are different cultures, ages, silos, and levels of experience and understanding represented?   Try to avoid the “collection of giants” mind set.  Define the problem so that it inherently requires breadth of input.
  2. Do any strong egos in this group need to be stroked and contained?  Sometimes balancing one ego against another can help.  Personal and respectful requests for help in advance can help.
  3. Are there any messenger killers present who will try to crush bearers of views different from their own?  Summarizing the views of a known contrarian in non-emotional terms in advance is best, but summarizing afterwards and stripping out the gratuitous elements also works wholesale nike air max 90.
  4. Are there any pontificators in the group who will waste time or draw the discussion off topic?  Setting tight time limits can help here.  Great collaborative leaders are great moderators.

Some of these problems can be addressed in advance; others just have to be dealt with wisely when they arise. The most important thing is for the leader to lead by example.  He or she must continually demonstrate fairness, openness, and trustworthiness, be the first to question his or her own ideas, and reward participants for fairplay, clear communication, and valuable insights.   It may be necessary to summarize key points on a person by person basis, but it is essential to do it well at the end. 

Those are the skills and characteristics I’ve noticed in the people who have impressed me as top-rate collaborators – people who have gotten extraordinary results new balance 574 black.  Now, I invite you to tell me what you think are the most important features of a great collaborator

John Abele

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About John

“John Abele is a pioneer and leader in the field of less-invasive medicine, For more than four decades, John has devoted himself to innovation in health care, business and solving social problems.” He is retired Founding Chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation. John holds numerous patents and has published and lectured extensively on the technology of various medical devices and on the technical, social, economic, and political trends and issues affecting healthcare. His major interests are science literacy for children, education, and the process by which new technology is invented, developed, and introduced to society. Current activities include Chair of the FIRST Foundation which works with high school kids to make being science-literate cool and fun, and development of The Kingbridge Centre and Institute, a conferencing institution whose mission is to research, develop, and teach improved methods for interactive conferencing: problem solving, conflict resolution, strategic planning, new methods for learning and generally help groups to become “Collectively intelligent.” He lives with his wife and two dogs in Shelburne, Vermont.”

One thought on “Characteristics of a Great Collaborative Leader

  1. I love you perspective on innovation and is the first article i am having my online MBA students read. I believe the future of businesses lies in a collaborative mindset and processes. It is not easy to switch to that paradigm from what we are used to. Some characteristics that i think are present in collaborative leaders:

    1) Open to diverse perspectives

    2) Self awareness about their inner motivations and past conditioning so they can make more conscious choices rather than being on auto-pilot

    3) Integrated – they live their values in all aspects of their lives

    4) Larger purpose – they are driven by a larger purpose than making profits and work for collective good

    I wrote a post on authentic leadership and believe there is an overlap between that and collaborative leadership:

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