Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the greatest leaders the USA has yet seen, once made a typically self-deprecating comment.
He said: “I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues”.
Simplistic? Perhaps. But nonetheless correct. There is absolutely no doubt that there’s a new kid on the block when it comes to workplace behaviour, particularly if you are looking to thrive at a leadership level. The days of hiding away in a corner office, gazing out the window in splendid isolation, are well and truly over. To forge a successful path, it’s all about engagement with others and understanding that there truly is no ‘I’ in team.
No one is successful alone. Isolationist leadership is small-picture thinking. If you want to be a leader with vision, you have to be prepared to move from ‘it’s all about ME and my goals’ to ‘what approach should WE be taking on this’?
Welcome to the ‘we’ space — and the theory that lies behind commercial collaboration and collaborative leadership. Here’s how you can use it to take you from ‘me’ to said ‘we’ — and have the ability to succeed as a team player and future-proof your career.
5 steps to becoming a collaborative leader
1. Be willing to share credit when credit is due
The temptation to take all the glory for your team’s success can be overwhelming when you have led a project. But understanding that everybody needs to be given accolades, no matter how insignificant their part, is critical. This improves engagement and trust, and team members feel empowered and are more likely to give an even better performance on the next project.
2. Be brave enough to share your weaknesses
Too often in the workplace, we see admitting a lack of knowledge or understanding as admitting to failure. What it is in actuality is a form of strength, because it shows others that we are willing to seek help and show vulnerability. This engenders trust, and encourages others in return to admit the same issues. The end result? If there is a problem on a task or project, an individual is far more likely to speak up sooner and avert major disaster.
3. Appreciate the value of intellectual currency
It’s rapidly becoming apparent that skills are an increasingly valuable currency for both corporates and entrepreneurs alike. Collective intelligence, or thinking, acting, and working within a truly engaged team environment, is the way to future-proof your business. We are smarter together. We are more agile together. Share skill, knowledge, and insight — teach each other something you previously had no knowledge of. It will stand you in good stead.
4. Stand up and speak up
Part of teamwork is the ability to change situations that are not acceptable. If you think that an idea could be bettered, or that your workplace has unacceptable conditions for members of your team, then don’t just sit there. You have a responsibility as a leader to make decisions, to start change, and to be a part of the whole — and that involves shaking the tree at times. Collaboration rather than isolation can be uncomfortable in the short term, but the long-term rewards benefit the team rather than the individual.
5. Don’t be afraid to network
Professional networks are essential to give support, encouragement, and knowledge along the upward progression path. This isn’t the whole ‘have as many people as possible in your email list’ type of network; but like-minded thinkers who understand what you want to achieve and whom you want to support in kind.
Teamwork and collaboration are a way to stabilise and stand firm in a shifting and unsteady commercial environment. Single-handed achievement is a myth — it takes a collaborative team, working together, to achieve success.