Great Leaders Unite

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The most capable and ethically competent leaders reach for unity, which represents the highest levels of interpersonal and global responsibility. While it would be much easier, the best leaders don’t just aim for “getting along” or “getting by.”
Queen Elizabeth II said “I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”
Great leaders use meaningful connections, shared values and mutual understanding to bring people together. Their decisions and chosen paths are mutually beneficial for multiple constituents. They understand leadership as a process of bringing out the individual and collective best in others for the long-term good.

The words and actions of the best leaders unite and uplift rather than divide and tear down. They use a calm demeanor and peaceful means to reach desired ends. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.”

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Collaborative Leadership is the New App

Collaboration, by its very nature, tends toward disorder at times and a lack of central control by any one entity.                 Academics and Practitioners on Collaborative Leadership, Turning Point Leadership National Excellence Collaborative

Collaboration has been identified in the research as a leadership skill that is greatly needed, and which many leaders lack. It is a higher level  leadership skill than cooperation. Wikipedia defines it 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…

David Archer and Alex Cameron in their book Collaborative Leadership: How to succeed in an interconnected world, identify the basic task of the collaborative leader as the delivery of results across boundaries between different organisations. They say “Getting value from difference is at the heart of the collaborative leader’s task… they have to learn to share control, and to trust a partner to deliver, even though that partner may operate very differently from themselves.”[4]

Collaborative leadership includes such broad skills as trust building and using systems thinking in solving problems. While it has been discussed primarily in public policy settings and science classes in the past, leadership programs around the world are now offering entire courses in collaborative leadership. The idea of collaborative leadership as essential in today’s complex business world is catching on. It is being seen as a source of competitive advantage for those organizations who are embracing it and using it well.

Some articles sorting out what it means

Using collaborative leadership is not intuitive and it’s not easy. It’s a “next level” leadership skill, which is why I called it the “New App.”  Here are some sources for understanding what it involves:

This MIT article, Collaborating for Systemic Change, describes collaboration as the new necessary competitive advantage.

The Institute for Collaborative Leadership has some interesting resources available.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek has added a regular column on Collaboration.

A source with free learning modules (yes – free!)

Complete free learning modules on Collaborative Leadership from Turning Point, including Self-Assessment Questionnaires.

Some food for thought about how it relates to ethical leadership

While ethics has been thought oftraditionally as about “doing the right thing,” the definition of “doing the right thing” is changing rapidly. We share a finite space with an increasing number of other citizens and organizations with values and mission that differ from our own.

[People] may be said to resemble not the bricks of which a house is built, but the pieces of a picture puzzle, each differing in shape, but matching the rest, and thus bringing out the picture.                            Felix Adler

As we face new challenges together related to resources, rights and responsibilities, collaboration becomes a necessary part of ethical leadership. As leaders, we are required to gear up to learn a more complex (and rewarding) way of leading others that integrates the needs of many into solutions, requires a systemic view and commitment to trust, and recognizes the chaotic beauty of leading across traditional dividing lines. We have a responsibility to work toward mutually beneficial solutions, rather than railroading our special interests through. We must use a bigger view that takes into account the ideas, values, rights and needs of others.

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For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?
  7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
  2014 Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
  About 7 Lenses  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

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