Collective Leadership

By Maria Collar March 29, 2013

For more than 10 years, business leaders have been challenged by a flatter, more connected world to find innovative solutions to the issues created by globalization of the workplace. New leadership models are needed in this flatter world because most traditional approaches were not developed for 21st century realities.

In today’s volatile markets, where abilities to explore and innovate are greatly valued, traditional command-and-control hierarchies are impediments to creativity. As the world’s workplaces become more diverse, corporate leaders are urged to transform workplaces into more-complex, interconnected and dynamic living organisms.

To create such environments, business leaders must move away from traditional command-and-control leadership and toward shared responsibility and mutual accountability. This transition does not lead to a lack of discipline. It instills in employees a joint vision deeply rooted in a strategic direction.

Collective leadership is a 21st century solution for 21st century needs. It inspires transformation, participation and collaboration, and conveys passionate commitment. By offering equal partnership, collective leaders enable openness, transparency, collaboration, accountability and empowerment at all levels. This type of leader adopts a facilitating, outcome-driven style and bears the primary responsibility of developing talent that aligns with the strategic direction. Leaders respond to the question “How can our talented employees gain collective action to the business process to effectively execute strategy goals and objectives?”

Follow these five principles to unleash the potential of collective leadership:

  1. Share responsibility and accountability. Focus on empowering employees. Transform corporate culture into a dynamic and high-performing ecosystem.
  2. Align strategic direction to talent. Leaders who take care to keep strategic direction and the capabilities of talent aligned face fewer productivity issues. Engage employees in assessing capabilities and empower them to take ownership of their development.
  3. Provide different opportunities. Leaders must create the right conditions and provide different opportunities to develop talent. Collective leadership means giving employees equal access to development opportunities.
  4. Create “win-win” agreements. Build cooperation through a variety of structures, including management committees and training programs for alternative dispute resolution. Reduce grievances while providing a clear passage to equal partnership under common direction.
  5. Adopt a style that supports all employees. Leaders who create and sustain an environment in which employees at all levels collaborate to achieve a common goal enable strategic direction.

Hierarchal leadership does not fit 21st century business demands for agility and innovation. Democratic leadership inspires and empowers employees. Collectively empowering team members to shape an environment in which they operate will lead to an integrated workforce that maintains a dynamic presence in today’s volatile marketplace.

Maria Collar is chief consultant at Serendipity Consulting Services, a human capital consulting firm in Buffalo, N.Y.



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.


HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.