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Why a Collaborative Leadership Structure is the Best Way to Lead

Why a Collaborative Leadership Structure is the Best Way to Lead

A collaborative leadership structure can create a sense of community between all team members, making it easier to work together toward a common goal. In addition, leaders with a collaborative leadership style can inspire their teammates because they know they don't have to do everything themselves.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen stated that when leaders “set the stage” for collaborative work, the entire organisation benefits. 

Christensen argues that “the greatest source of innovation comes from collaboration, not individual creativity.” For example, Christensen cites the early days of Facebook—where Mark Zuckerberg and his team used various open communication tools, including video chat, to collaborate on ideas. These new tools ultimately led to Facebook's launch in 2004.

Leadership is one of the most critical business skills and is hard to master. A leader can inspire others and motivate them to achieve great things. If you don't have these skills, you can still be a great leader, but you'll need to work at it.

It takes a lot of practice and experience to become a good leader and to make the right decisions at the correct times.

In this post, I will show you how to become a better leader and the best way to do it.

What is Collaborative Leadership?

Collaborative Leadership

Collaborative leadership is a style of leadership that emphasises the importance of a team and the value of the collective voice. In collaborative leadership, everyone's opinion is respected, and decisions are made as a team.

This type of leadership focuses on building solid relationships with team members, which includes everyone in the organisation. In addition to creating a positive atmosphere, it also helps foster trust and transparency among team members and the organisation.

What's Different About Collaborative Leadership?

Collaborative leadership differs from traditional or autocratic leadership in several ways.

First, it values the collective voice of the team and the organisation over any individual. Second, it encourages team members to give their opinions and express their feelings, even if they don't always agree with the team.

Third, it empowers employees to make decisions instead of micromanaging.

In collaborative leadership, employees collaborate in making organisational decisions rather than being treated like a machine or a number. This allows them to take ownership of their work, as well as be part of making decisions that affect them.

By giving employees a sense of empowerment and autonomy, you are encouraging the team to become a true reflection of your brand. When you treat your employees like a team and encourage their voices, they will create content consistent with your brand.

You will also build stronger relationships with team members, which will help you keep your employees motivated and happy. In return, they will be more willing to share information about your brand and talk positively about it.

You can see collaborative leadership's effect on the team and the brand. For example, when you empower your team to make decisions, your employees will begin to share their opinions and ideas with your leadership.

You also build trust and transparency among your team since you treat them like human beings instead of robots. This makes it easier to communicate with your team, and it's easier to develop a relationship.

Finally, this type of leadership creates a positive, open environment that encourages creativity and innovation. When you're empowering your employees to make decisions, your team can develop creative solutions that were not possible before.

There are many benefits to implementing collaborative leadership. Not only does it lead to happier employees, but it also leads to more effective and efficient decision-making.

It also leads to a higher level of engagement among your employees, enabling them to become part of your brand. By encouraging your team to speak up, you'll be able to understand what they are thinking, giving you a better understanding of your customers.

Collaborative leadership will also help you make more informed decisions by helping you better understand your customers and your company.

What's The Difference Between Autocratic and Collaborative Leadership?

Traits Of Collaborative Leadership

Autocratic leadership is a style of leadership in which the leader makes all the decisions. This type of leadership is considered a top-down approach usually characterised by authoritarianism. It's also known as command and control leadership.

Collaborative leadership differs from autocratic leadership because it's more of a consensus-based approach. Instead of having the leader make all the decisions, this style encourages everyone to participate in making decisions.

This can be very difficult for leaders, but it's important to remember that everyone on your team has a unique perspective. They all bring different experiences to the table and have had different opportunities to learn about your brand.

When you use a collaborative leadership style, you ensure that everyone has a voice and that no one is marginalised or ignored. Collaborative leadership is also more common in companies where the employees are passionate about their work.

Collaborative leadership is a more effective form of leadership that can help you make better decisions. This is because it's based on the voices of all the people involved. You will also be able to create a better connection with your team, which will enable them to share information more freely.

Finally, you will better understand your employees, which will help you make informed decisions. This will lead to a stronger team, which is critical for a successful business.

Four Types of Collaboration

The four types of collaboration are shared leadership, individual leadership, peer leadership, and collective leadership.

Let's look at the different types of collaborative leadership, their pros, cons, and the best fit for your team.

Shared leadership – When two or more leaders collaborate, they share leadership, and one person usually leads each of the two or more leaders. This kind of collaboration is most common when two or more leaders are in a relationship, such as with a married couple. Because the relationship is based on equal authority and mutual trust, the leaders can work together to accomplish goals.


  • Shared leadership is often more egalitarian and, therefore, more efficient than other styles.
  • Shared leadership is often more flexible, as it doesn't require a leader.
  • It is often more effective because both people are committed to the mission's success.
  • When leaders do not share power, it often leads to conflict and confusion, leading to problems in the group or organisation.


  • It is less effective in solving complex problems.
  • Shared leadership requires two people to make decisions. Therefore, it is only applicable when the goals are simple.

Individual leadership – If one person is leading a group or organisation, it is called individual leadership. A leader in this position has all the authority, and the other members of the group or organisation are expected to follow. This kind of leadership is very authoritarian and the opposite of shared leadership. It is very hierarchical, and the leader is usually in charge of the entire process.


  • It is highly efficient, as it allows a single person to manage a project or solve a problem
  • It is very effective, as it leads to the best outcomes
  • It is very productive, as there is no time wasted on decision-making
  • It is very safe, as there is one person in control of the process, so there is no risk of mistakes or errors
  • When there are multiple leaders, the process is more likely to be chaotic and confusing
  • Individual leadership is most effective when there are only two leaders.


  • When the leadership is divided, it may be challenging to get the right outcome.
  • It can be risky to put too much authority into a single leader's hands, as it may lead to a breakdown in the group or organisation.

Peer leadership – Peer leadership is when a leader works with people at an equal level to them rather than subordinates. This is the most common form of leadership, as most people want to be led by someone they consider to be a peer. For example, most CEOs are peers to their employees, and many managers are peers to subordinates. Peer leadership is also more democratic than other forms of leadership. There is more communication, and the leaders are more concerned with reaching the same outcome as the team.


  • It is often more egalitarian than other styles
  • It is more efficient than individual leadership
  • It is more productive than individual leadership
  • It is more flexible than shared leadership
  • It is more democratic than other styles
  • It is usually the most effective way to solve complex problems
  • Peer leadership is often less risky than other styles


  • It is often more time-consuming than other styles
  • It can be more expensive than other styles
  • It can be more complicated than other styles
  • It may not be the best solution for a team that needs more direction than communication
  • Peer leadership may not be the best choice if the goals of the team are too broad
Related:  The Importance of Logo Design and Branding

Collective leadership – Collective leadership is when one leader serves as a guide for a team of people, but the rest of the team can make their own decisions. This is the opposite of individual leadership, as the leader provides input and suggestions, but the team is still free to decide on their own.


  • It is the most democratic way to lead a team. Everyone has a voice
  • It is often the most effective way to solve complex problems
  • It can lead to better outcomes than any other style
  • It is often the most cost-effective way to lead a team
  • It can lead to higher productivity than other styles


  • It can be more complicated than other styles
  • It can be more time-consuming than other styles
  • It can be more expensive than other styles
  • It is not the best way to lead a small group.

How do you know which type of collaboration is best for your team?

To determine what kind of collaborative leadership is best for your team, it's essential to consider the following:

  • The number of leaders
  • The level of responsibility
  • The amount of authority
  • The level of conflict

When determining which style of collaborative leadership is best for your team, consider the following:

  • Does everyone need a leader?
  • Do you want to be the only leader?
  • Do you want to share the responsibility?
  • Is the task easy or complex?

The Benefits of Collaboration

Importance Of Collaboration

There are many benefits of collaboration, but the two main ones are:

  1. The ability to get things done more quickly
  2. The ability to get more accomplished with less effort

Collaboration helps achieve both of these benefits. As a leader, you need to collaborate with other team members to get more done, but you shouldn't have to do everything yourself. This is where collaboration helps you out. It allows you to accomplish more with your team.

Collaboration also increases your effectiveness as a leader. When you collaborate, you get more ideas and inspiration from your team. You also get feedback and suggestions from your team. This allows you to create a better product. Collaboration also helps you stay in tune with the needs of your team.

1. Faster Results

When you collaborate, you get your work done faster. Your team is already doing things that they think will benefit you. They are already doing things that they think you need. Your team has ideas and solutions to problems they are actively looking into.

2. More Accomplishment

Collaborating allows you to get more done, even if your team doesn't know what the final results will be. By collaborating, you can get your team to focus on one project at a time. Then, after the project is finished, you can give them additional assignments to continue to grow and improve on what they already did.

3. More Effective

Collaboration increases your ability to make decisions that are based on sound evidence. You can gather information from your team. Then, you can make decisions based on your gathered information and your team's recommendations.

4. In Tune With Your Team

Collaboration also helps you stay in touch with your team. You can ask questions and listen to their feedback. You can learn what your team is thinking and feeling. This helps you to understand your team's concerns and desires, making collaboration more effective because you are in tune with your team.

5. Greater Productivity

Collaboration increases your team's productivity. This is because your team is already working on projects that they think are important and beneficial to you. You don't need to motivate your team to work on your ideas. Your team is already doing so. They are already looking into the things that you need.

How to Collaborate Effectively

  1. Make sure everyone understands that they are part of a team. Make sure that everyone knows that they are responsible for contributing ideas and helping their teammates. Everyone should have a clear understanding of their roles. This will help your team understand that they are all part of the same team.
  2. Make sure everyone is committed to your vision. Have everyone agree on what the end goal of the team is. If the team is having trouble focusing on a particular project, ensure that the group is evident in the overall purpose and goals.
  3. Provide your team with the resources they need. If your team is working on a project, make sure you are available for feedback. Also, ensure your team has the technology and tools they need to complete their tasks.
  4. Don't micromanage. Let your team decide what they need to do. It's up to your team to decide how to get the work done.
  5. Work together to find the best solution. Your team can use multiple approaches and methods to find the best way to reach their goals. You can all help by sharing ideas and suggestions.
  6. Take the time to celebrate successes. Even though the team isn't always successful, they can still be proud of their efforts. Recognise that everyone is a valuable part of the team and that everyone is contributing to the group.

The Costs of Not Using Collaboration

Decision To Collaborate Flow Chart

According to the International Labor Organization, only 2% of the world's population works in knowledge-intensive sectors, where innovation and creativity are at a premium. Therefore, most work is routine, repetitive, and laborious. Many workforces must function as individual contributors, often in isolation.

As organisations become increasingly global, collaboration among teams becomes a necessity. Unfortunately, collaboration is not always a natural trait. It requires effort to train employees in collaborative leadership. Unfortunately, it appears that only 2% of organisations are aware that this trait exists in any meaningful sense. So, if collaboration is necessary for your organisation, why is it so rare?

In most cases, organisations assume that employees are naturally collaborative. That is not true.

For example, the vast majority of people are not naturally collaborative. People have different personalities, beliefs, skills, and ways of thinking. To create a collaborative culture, you must understand the unique nature of each employee.

Understanding each team member's personality, skills, and beliefs is essential in creating a collaborative environment. It's important to establish what the team's values and mission are. This includes understanding how to motivate people to achieve shared goals and the importance of the organisation's mission.

Collaboration requires trust, so knowing your team members is essential, communicating clearly, and acting honestly.

Once you understand the individuals on the team, you can start to build their skills. Many managers assume they already possess all the necessary skills to foster a collaborative environment. This is false.

According to researchers from the University of Minnesota, only two traits are essential to leading a team effectively. The first is the ability to understand and empathise with your employees, and the second is to lead them to accomplish a common goal.

A simple way to build these two traits is to spend time listening to your employees. Ask them to explain their point of view. Listen to their concerns. Ask them about the goals they have set for themselves.

When you've done this, you'll better understand the team. You'll be able to relate to them on a personal level, and you'll understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Once you've established the trust needed to foster collaboration, it is possible to create a collaborative environment. This is especially true if you focus on building relationships, which is something that naturally builds trust.

The third aspect of fostering a collaborative environment is encouraging and rewarding employees for their contributions. The key to this is to identify the team's goals and then communicate to the employees what their role is.

This will also help you to ensure that the goals are realistic. It will give your employees the incentive to perform well and meet their goals.

Finally, your leaders must maintain transparency and consistently communicate with the team. For example, it's crucial to provide regular feedback. This helps team members develop their skills and allows them to learn from their mistakes.

As you can see, many elements go into creating a collaborative environment. While it is challenging to train employees to collaborate, it is possible to make it easier by establishing a trusting environment.


As a leader, you're expected to inspire others to take action, motivate them to follow through, and manage their time effectively.

There's no question that the traditional command-and-control structure is outdated, but most leaders haven't given much thought to how to make it work in the 21st century.

The result? Underperformers and burnouts, and the occasional leadership crisis.

So how do we fix this? We need to embrace collaboration and let people step into roles that they're passionate about.

Check out my free guide to learn more about managing a collaborative team!

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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