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Leadership, Collaboration and a Literary Growth Market

Added on: 12-Nov-13 12:00am

Author: Stuart Waters

At Twyfords we appear to be drowning in books about leadership and collaboration. It seems that many consultants and leaders from around the world are keen to share their insights about and passion for collaborative decision making.

One book I've particularly enjoyed is Collaborative Leadership: How to succeed in an interconnected world by David Archer and Alex Cameron. It offers a nice summary and some pithy advice for leaders wondering why they should collaborate, and then having to make that collaboration work.

One of the things Archer and Cameron highlight is the importance of difference. Indeed they write that getting value from difference lies at the heart of the collaborative leader's task. My own favourite frame around difference is that we tend to inhabit the 'ghetto of the like minded' - always hearing from those who think only like us. When collaborating we need to hoist ourselves over the walls of that ghetto in order to learn from those who don't look, sound or think like us. Helping your team to see beyond the ghetto is a powerful element of collaborative leadership.

Another area Archer and Cameron touch on is the importance of trust in successful collaboration. They write that "managing well is no longer enough. You have to start trusting your way out of problems". I like that line. It resonates strongly with my experience of the power of trust. Clients often tell me that their stakeholders don't trust them, though they, the client, are doing their best to earn that trust. My response is that if you want people to trust you, you have to make the decision to trust them first. Simply being trustworthy isn't enough. I believe the shortest route to being trusted is to trust first.

Again, it takes courageous leadership to trust those who are different, who may want different things, who may be angry at us. In my experience, collaborative leadership starts there. It isn't easy, particularly, as Archer and Cameron say, trust is hardest to give or ask for precisely when it is needed most.

Archer and Cameron describe a model for successful collaboration. They use an image of the three-legged stool. The legs are:

  • Governance: Clarity of purpose, Quality of decision making, Clarity of accountabilities 
  • Operations: Aligned processes and systems, Effective communications, Capability improvement.
  • Behaviours: Role modelling, Cross-cultural awareness, joint problem-solving.
I was interested to see their emphasis on the role of governance in leading collaborations. That concept matches our own thinking; indeed, our own framework is the Collaborative Governance pathway. Archer and Cameron see the need for clarity about roles and responsibilities. At Twyfords we see real value inviting collaborators to co-define and co-design those governance arrangements. It is an opportunity to work together with your stakeholders, to build trust as you together create the other legs of the stool.

It is very encouraging to see the growth in books about collaboration and leadership. It is something we at Twyfords are passionate about. What's more, it is very useful. I am about to board a plane to go and work with a client for a couple of days, providing advice and guidance to their leadership team as they confront a complex and controversial problem. I'm planning to do more reading on the plane and will be drawing on the wisdom of Archer and Cameron among others.

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Stuart Waters’ reviews Collaborative Leadership: How to succeed in an interconnected world by David Archer and Alex Cameron

The three-legged stool; Archer and Cameron describe a model for successful collaboration

Managing well is no longer enough. You have to start trusting your way out of problems

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