Updated: Mar 10, 2018
The fourth of the six essential servant leadership themes is Fostering Collaboration.
Personally, this is one of my favorites mainly because I have been able to watch a team excel leaps and bounds simply because they were given the chance to collaborate.
According to Irving and Longbotham (2006), "the fourth item in this model is the importance of the leader's fostering of an environment of collaboration over competition" (p. 8). Spears (2005), Laub (1999), Page & Wong (2005), and Buchen (1998) add to this by providing the emphasis Greenleaf had originally placed on collaboration (Spears and Laub identify this as Building Community) by agreeing that collaboration in teams is a critical piece of the foundation of a team. Buchen (1998) sums it up best by stating, "servant leaders have a primary function of building human infrastructure on which relationships and community may be built."
In my experience, the ability to empower staff to collaborate has been a major benefit. Being a new leader means I am coming in with ideas that have not been implemented within this team before. By developing a culture that encourages collaboration, it has made working through these changes significantly easier for me. More than just allowing a team to collaborate, I feel it is important for the leader to welcome and accept new ideas. Regardless of their use within the change or day to day functions of the team, simply creating an environment where ideas are welcomed will feed to advancing the level of collaboration within a team.
The other day I taught a change management course and one of the pillars of this course is Kotter's 8 stages of change model. As we were working through the first three stages (Creating a Climate for Change), I spent a lot of time talking about collaboration and gaining buy-in from your team and other stakeholders. Working in State Government, I was met with the traditional, "We don't have time for that" and "It wouldn't be a good use of taxpayer dollars to allow for collaboration and innovation time." While I can empathize with these points of view, I don't agree with them. My general discussion enhancer to this response is, "So, you're telling me that we cannot create a culture of collaboration because we don't have time and it wouldn't be a good use of taxpayer dollars. What do you think comes out of collaboration?" From here, I tend to get the, "Well, it would be nice" response and the discussion seems to transition into a thought.
Every environment, Public and Private, is going to have barriers and roadblocks to this ideal of collaboration in the workplace. I just really believe that if we allow our teams to experience collaboration, even if only for a little bit, we will allow them to experience growth in multiple realms.
What do you think? How does someone overcome the barriers in front of them to encourage and foster collaboration in the workplace?
The literature is strong in identifying collaboration as an essential piece of team effectiveness. I strongly believe that collaboration is a win-win all around. For me, I am going to take advantage of the collaborative climate my team has built and I am looking forward to riding that wave to great things.
In my next post, I will discuss the fifth element, Communicating with Clarity.
Until that time, best wishes!
Irving, J. A., & Longbotham, G. J. (2007). Team Effectiveness and Six Essential Servant Leadership Themes: A Regression Model Based on Items in the Organizational Leadership Assessment. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 2(2), 98-113.