What is Collective Leadership?
If you are seeking to become a great leader, always keep in mind what Steve Jobs said: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”
Facilitate progress. Coordinate team efforts. Track progress. That’s what a great leader needs to do in order to achieve the common goal of their organization.
Collective leadership involves
all of which ensures an organization gets the most out of everyone’s unique talents. Tackle these things in a structured way and you will enable your organization to move forward and upward.
The first step will be to recognize that – regardless of their position in the organization’s hierarchy, every team member has certain strengths that can be leveraged for the entire team’s benefit. It doesn’t mean that weakness and team members’ intrinsic limitations should be ignored. But collective leadership certainly recognizes that every effective group self-manages and self-leads – to a certain extent. Naturally, then, a diverse group of people that works together and leads collectively will be infinitely more successful than an entirely homogeneous group.
In this article, we’ll discuss what collective leadership is, how it differs from traditional leadership strategies, and how you can implement it in your own organization. We’ll also share tips on how the right software tools can help you with this new approach.
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Traditional leadership is characterized by a single boss, equipped with ultimate authority to make decisions. That person has all the power to direct other team members, control their actions and delegate work – and authority – within the organization.
By contrast, collectively led teams will try hard to ensure that no decision is made by a single person alone and instead reflects as many viewpoints as possible. Since such teams are made up of equals, rather than individuals viewing each other as followers and leaders, everyone will be more naturally inclined to work together and contribute to a joint decision.
Make no mistake, though. Joint decision-making doesn’t mean a team requires unanimity in all matters, or even any. It simply means that collective leadership places a special emphasis on increasing participation in the decision making-process. The underlying hypothesis, of course, is that such a process, by itself, will improve the end result – even though only one person or a small group will, in fact, make the decision.
Clearly, such a focus on hearing out as many different stakeholders as possible is quite different from the traditional, hierarchical models of leadership, where not only ultimate power resides with only a few people, but quite often the process of preparing the actual decision-making is also limited to a small group.
It may seem that the decision between collective leadership and more hierarchical forms of running a team or organization is mostly ideological or personal to the individual leader. However, it is important to recognize that not all teams are suited for collective decision-making.
The most important distinction is that between creative teams on the one hand and crews more focused on execution on the other hand. While a marketing agency would pretty obviously benefit from merging as many viewpoints as possible prior to a creative decision being made, law enforcement bodies will naturally lean towards traditional leadership structures.
The reason is not that decisions in law enforcement come out better, if fewer diverging opinions are considered. To the contrary, there are probably – on a societal level – few industries where consideration of all stakeholders’ views are more important than here. However, in this example, that dialogue needs to happen at the legislative or regulatory level, leaving – as was pointed out above – execution with the police force. And once execution – or law enforcement – becomes the priority, it is, in fact, vital that team members do not naturally engage in a collective debate whenever a decision must be made.
It follows that it’s on you to determine if your team would, in fact, benefit from collective leadership. To help you figure that out, let’s look at a few more characteristics of this strategy:
Many people call themselves leaders, but it’s not as simple as just putting that word on your business cards.
Essential prerequisites for implementing a collective leadership model are
This is basically another way of saying: avoid micro-management and empower people both
By contrast, toxic leaders who are inherently unsuited to engage in collective leadership activities would tend to create an environment where people don’t feel comfortable assuming more responsibility. In such organizations, team might feel under-appreciated and constantly fear that making a mistake leads to career retributions.
Here are few key elements you should incorporate in your leadership strategy:
- Transparency: Great leaders are open, honest, and forthcoming with their thoughts, feelings, and intentions. They are unafraid of sharing the foundations of their decision-making, because they enjoy being challenged and know that feedback will improve the quality of their own work.
- Authenticity: Effective leaders live and breathe the values of their organization and demonstrate those values through their own actions and words every day. Practice what you preach is the order of the day!
- Empathy: Extraordinary leaders care about people as individuals and want them to succeed because they see each person as an asset for their organization. This includes really hearing people out, because understanding where someone is coming from will enable you to even better understand that person’s contribution. Empathy is a two-way street, you get lots of value back by really engaging with your counterparts.
- Passion: The best leaders have a clear sense of purpose, their work is driven by passion rather than fear of failure or loss of income. They do what they do not for the money, but because they really have a mission to accomplish. By laying it all out in front of their team, they get people to sign up and become self-motivated, engaged contributors.
Collective leadership has been around for decades. However, only in recent years, fantastic new tools have become available that support this leadership model as tech companies have begun to develop software that truly supports more democratic, transparent, and successful work environments.
We are pushing software at this point, because implementing a collective leadership style does not happen by itself. If you really want to transform your leadership strategy, the most important question is: “How should I implement collective leadership within my organization?”.
The answer is: you need to leverage the best tools and that means software!
Now, what kind of software do we have in mind? Microsoft Word? Gmail? Slack? No, what you should be looking for is a tool that
Too fast? Let’s take a step back. We established above that effective, collective leadership involves a myriad of considerations regarding team interaction, your feedback culture and, of course, the actions you should undertake to implement the leadership model you have in mind.
Well, and of all that begins by understanding where you currently stand. Sure, you could sign up to just another task management tool and improvise your way to collective leadership. And that might indeed work. But we believe that with so much technology at our fingertips, businesses have such a wonderful opportunity to let irrefutable data lead the way. Evidence-based leadership is the order of the day and software is the way to get there.
Enter “task mining” [link], the automatic capture of workflows, team interactions and other user behavior that generates actionable insights and lets managers take decisions based on data.
A tool like AllActivity lets you do exactly that. In compliance with all privacy expectations (and laws), this tool tracks everything that’s happening during your team’s workday. It visualizes workflows, quantifies project contributions and allows you to assess the quality of your process in a way that was never before possible.
In this way, any organization can optimize for
And the best thing: AllActivity is a task mining tool that involves not only leaders, but every team member.
This yields enormous benefits as employees
With AllActivity, you can feedback workflows that you never knew existed and have a data-based conversation with your team about how to improve them.
If you think your team or business is too small to embrace task mining software tools, you are wrong. Just as collective leadership can be applied to groups of all sizes, signing up your team to SaaS BI tool takes a few minutes at most and you can start reaping the benefits literally the next day.
The collective leadership model can be an ideal form of governance both for
Of course, implementing this model is not about holding one off-site workshop where everyone’s allowed to write their ideas on a whiteboard. Rather, it’s about leading an organization consistently and in the longer term by bringing in everyone to review, discuss and improve the way the team works together.
It is a simple concept, really, but one that is not trivial to implement. Fortunately, with new tech, you may soon be on your way to managing the next great, collectively-led organization. Check out AllActivity and give it a try!
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