Leadership can take many different forms, depending on the person and the situation in which it is needed. Collaborative leadership is a leadership style in which a leader brings together a large group of people, with a variety of backgrounds, to make a productive decision and act upon it. According to Chrislip and Larson (1994):
…they are the ones who have the credibility to get the right people together to create visions, solve problems, and reach agreements about implementable actions. They are not the leaders who tell us what to do. Instead, they are the ones who help us work together constructively. (p. xx)
This paper is intended to explain where collaborative leadership is used, what characteristics it possesses, and the benefits and disadvantages of using it. It will also summarize what types of people are collaborative leaders and the qualities they have that make them one.
Collaborative leadership shares commonalities with both servant and transformational leadership. It is similar to servant leadership in the sense that the leader is there to help and be on the same level as the group in which he or she is leading. It, too, encourages collaboration in its methods to achieve certain goals put out by the leader. The use of collaboration often boosts a sense of morale and trust within the group, which makes it similar to transformational leadership. This style of leadership can be used in most any setting such as businesses or learning environments, but it is seen with greater success in community groups and organizations.
Some of the characteristics seen in collaborative leadership are shared problem-solving and decision making. In order to come to a mutual decision between group members, the group discusses the problem at hand, makes a decision, and looks to the leader for guidance and to carry out their plan. The discussion is an open-process, meaning that the decision making is done amongst the group members, not just the leader. Unlike an authoritative leader, the leader of this group allows the members to be a part of his or her final say. By doing this, it helps to keep everyone on the same page and moving forward in the same direction.
Most every community organization functions best when collaborative leadership is in place, but with any leadership style, there are advantages and disadvantages of using it. One of the first advantages of using collaborative leadership is the buy-in among members of the group. When a leader makes use of collaboration, it gives the members a sense of ownership and value, which in turn builds commitment to the organization. With this loyalty, the leader can then assume a greater willingness from the members to be involved in the implementation of their final plan.
Another advantage of using this leadership style is the high levels of trust building within the group. Being that this is an open process, members are encouraged to speak and think freely without judgment...