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Is collaborative leadership the model for the 2015 economy?

Posted on: April 23 2015

Business people collaborating at the round table indicating their equality

World War II General, George S Patton, held the position that leadership was about being a symbol, an almost mystical hero-figure purposely crafted to inspire his troops and followers.  He was also a hard and difficult man whose opinions were, as far as it seemed, completely unchallengeable. While the military demands adherence to commands in order to maintain cohesion, corporate management is more inclined to see that blind obedience as somewhat retrograde. Especially when so much is riding on the competitive advantage of creativity and diversity.

In his book, Collaborative Leadership in Financial Services (2011), Philip Ullah shares; “a model of leadership that is radically different from this ‘heroic’ model of leadership”. He states that, “Collaborative leadership is the notion that talented and influential people create value when they connect with each other across organizational silos and create synergies”. This approach to leadership is based on achieving a more contemporary win–win outcome – though as we’ll see, not entirely win-win. This concept clearly would not have appeared through the windscreen of General Patton’s worldview.

2015, according to Bill Conerly of Forbes (6th Jan, 2015), will provide a higher GDP growth in the US than that seen in the last 5 years. Closer to home, the Chinese economy is forecast to grow 7% according to a CNBC report from the banking sector. The flow on to economies like Australia and New Zealand should be positive. It might seem that managers in the financial sector need only hold on for the ride. But that approach is, at best, a gamble.

Success in economic terms equates to fiscal growth. The percentage of growth is the underpinning scorecard that reflects the level of positive action taken by the firm responsible. Whether it’s a bank, fund manager, or import/export organisation, success is measured on revenue and profit growth. Leaving the sustainability argument to the side for now, how can collaborative leadership help organisations achieve ‘above-average’ growth in an already positive 2015?

Ullah adds that this approach to leadership “works beyond the realm of ideas. It allows people to complement their skills, multiply efforts and save important resources like time”. Getting people to work effectively across silos, rather than tearing down those silos, is becoming a key differentiator. According to Ansell and Gash (2012), “collaborative leaders typically play a facilitative role, encouraging and enabling stakeholders to work together effectively”. So let’s look at the key points that identify collaborative leadership.

  1. Collaborating requires an equal level of assertiveness and co-operation (according to the Thomas-Kilmann conflict model).
  2. Collaborating requires a clear goal (or set of goals) before entering into a conversation about how to achieve them
  3. Collaborative leadership does NOT necessarily achieve a win-win outcome. Though it aims to serve the interests of all parties.
  4. Collaboration can only be achieved through clear communication channels.
  5. Collaborative leadership does not require a charismatic figurehead or overly detailed manager as seen in transformational and transactional models.
  6. Collaborative leaders are facilitators

By recognising the attributes of collaborative leadership, organisations looking to achieve a greater-than-average growth in 2015 can purposefully engage facilitators who understand the company’s goals. Providing these leaders with the tools and connections required to create a collaborative environment could most likely be the difference between a good year and a great year.


Ansell, c. & Gach, A. (2012) Stewards, mediators, and catalysts: Toward a model of collaborative leadership. Innovation Journal. 2012, Vol. 17 Issue 1, p2-21.

Conerly, B. (2015) Economic Forecast 2015-2017, Forbes, accessed 8/1/2015

Ullah, P. (2011). Collaborative Leadership in Financial Services. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

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