To sustain competitive advantage in the fast changing and interconnected economy of today  requires collaborative leadership. Globally enterprises are challenged to become more innovative, agile and adaptable in response to the changing customer expectations.

The Demise of Command and Control

This world requires enterprises to shift from traditional command and control to a collaborative leadership approach.

The command-and-control approach to leadership was design for stable times with the purpose of addressing the need to improve productivity by encouraging specialisation and process based working. This allowed for the detailed control of industrial production processes and the movement of materials. Today the demands are different, the world has shifted to a services based economy, that requires increased responsiveness, agility and innovation. The ability of enterprises to adapt and respond to this change is not a matter of structure, but of people and relationships. Success will require collaborative leadership.

Command-and-control structures place too much responsibility on too few leaders. Looking at typical list of competencies that enterprises expect from their leaders. It becomes clear, that what is expected are super humans, people who need to excel at strategy, analytics, problem solving, financials, marketing, psychology, operations and innovation. Unfortunately these super humans are in limited supply.

With such demands placed on the few leaders at the top it’s not surprising that they run out capacity to lead and make effective decisions.


The Increased Demand for Collaborative Leadership

Collaborative leadership is about leading across the enterprise, to inspire a shared vision and the trust necessary to lead enterprise change as opposed to leading within a functional silo.

Wikipedia describes collaborative leadership as “an emerging body of theory and management practice which is focused on the leadership skills and attributes needed to deliver results across organizational boundaries”. Collaborative leadership is also described in the Harvard Business Review article “Are You a Collaborative Leader?” as “the capacity to engage people and groups outside one’s formal control and inspire them to work toward common goals—despite differences in convictions, cultural values, and operating norms”.

Collaborative leadership requires we broaden our understanding of the role of the leader. The leader’s is not only responsible for leading within their enterprise vertical silo, but increasingly leaders are required to lead across industries, enterprises and across functional silos. It’s built on the idea that an enterprise exists as a network of relationships and it’s these relationships that allow adaption and innovation to happen. When leading across the enterprise one cannot depend on a command and control approach. Rather it requires you to lead change where you have limited or no formal authority.

Success in fast changing and turbulent times demands increased collaboration across the entire enterprise, not just across the enterprise, but also with customers, suppliers and government. Collaborative leadership changes how enterprises are led as it fundamentally alters:

  • How strategy and objectives are developed.
  • How problems are approached and solved.
  • How decisions are made.
  • How people are promoted and rewarded.
  • How resources are allocated and managed.
  • How information is shared and communicated.
  • How leaders and employees see their role.

The interconnected, interdependent and networked economy of today demands less control, increased collaboration resulting in more effective leadership. The translates into an organisation with less structure, good enough process, less silos, reduced management and increased leadership responsibility at all levels.

  • Are stuck in command and control leadership?
  • How is this working for you?
  • Have you considered moving towards a collaborative leadership approach?