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How Collaborative Leadership Empowers Your Team

Learn how collaborative leadership helps foster innovation, why it's so important right now, and the characteristics of a successful collaborative leader.

The workplace has changed so much in the past 10 years, and new ways of working require new leadership styles. Collaborative leadership helps bring team members together from across your business, encouraging innovation and empowerment.

What is collaborative leadership?

Collaborative leadership is an approach to management that focuses on breaking down silos and bringing teams together from different departments within the same organization.

Moving away from traditional top-down structures toward this new leadership style requires leadership teams to learn specific skills such as communication, facilitation, and humility.

Why do we need collaborative leaders right now?

The COVID-19 pandemic made a significant impact on how we work. Before the pandemic, most of us worked together in one office. But in 2022, McKinsey reported that 58% of Americans had the option to work from home at least one day a week, and 35% were able to work from home full-time.

Today, having a hybrid or fully remote workplace is completely normal. This is made especially easier in the age of digital transformation, where teams can communicate through instant messaging and video calls across multiple time zones.

However, these modern tools can only help us with direct communication. Engaging in real collaboration requires a lot of work from a leadership team.

Benefits of a collaborative leadership approach

A collaborative leadership style can make a real difference in the success of an organization. This was true even before the pandemic; a 2017 study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that high-performing organizations were 5.5 times more likely to emphasize collaboration as a key value in their company.

Empowers your team

A collaborative leadership style can help each employee in your organization feel valued as you include everyone in the decision-making process. You’ll also be able to encourage employees to invest in their own success and help future leaders learn how a collaborative approach works.

Boosts innovation

When everyone feels involved, new ideas rise to the surface. A traditional management practice might leave some team members feeling reluctant to bring their thoughts to the table, but a more-collaborative leader encourages communication and fosters trust.

These types of leaders make sure to create an inclusive environment where employees can share their different perspectives. When employees feel like their perspectives matter, they will feel more inclined to speak up in team meetings and brainstorming sessions, thereby boosting innovation and problem-solving.

Brings your team together

Collaborative leadership means that everyone feels involved in the success of the business. Group members who might have otherwise felt undervalued are now made a part of the collaborative process, and everyone benefits as a result.

Collaborative leaders create a trusting environment where employees are involved in the direction of the business and encouraged to work creatively. As a result, team members feel more invested in their day-to-day work.

Difficulties of a collaborative leadership style

Collaborative leadership requires more than just encouraging communication across the diverse teams within your business. It takes time and effort to create a collaborative environment.

Time constraints

Collaborative decision-making takes time. You need to create space for employees to communicate and debate ideas with different teams across the organization, rather than leaving the brainstorming sessions to a small group of managers.

The challenge of vulnerability

Instead of sitting at the top of a hierarchy like traditional managers, collaborative leaders share their power with other team members. Collaborative leaders need to be transparent with their teams and comfortable asking for help or feedback when they need it.

Conflicts within the group

When multiple teams collaborate, there might be conflicting ideas on the best way to approach a project or a problem. In this case, those in leadership positions need to focus on finding solutions and common ground.

What makes a collaborative leader?

A collaborative leader fosters an environment of trust, where teams from across the business can communicate with each other, and each team member feels empowered and valued within the organization.

Open communication

Collaborative leadership is rooted in open communication between managers and their team. This transparency allows everyone to have an idea of how the company is doing and gives employees the opportunity to provide their thoughts on the direction of the business.

Not every piece of information needs to be shared across the entire company, but every team member needs should be encouraged to feel comfortable having conversations with their company’s leadership team.

This is particularly useful for new leaders promoting within an organization because it will help them have a solid understanding of how things work at the upper level before they get there.

Clear purpose

With so many people communicating across the organization, collaborative leaders need to retain a clear vision of the big picture. This helps to retain focus on what is important so that the long-term goals of the business do not get lost across respective teams.

Facilitation skills

One of the most important collaboration skills a leader can have is facilitation. Managers need to make sure that all employees are able to share their best ideas and that conflicts within the group are properly resolved. Leaders with strong facilitation skills make collaborative leadership possible by seeking out different perspectives that fuel new ideas and problem-solving.


Having humility is one of the most useful collaborative leadership skills. In organizations where one leader has the final call, collaborative leaders need to practice stepping back and making space for their team members to demonstrate their skills and share their ideas.

How to create a successful collaborative environment

Collaborative leaders need collaborative teams because—just like every other aspect of this management practice—it’s all about the team. That’s why the collaborative leadership style goes beyond your skills as an individual.

Support employee engagement

Business collaboration flourishes in an inclusive, team-oriented environment. Alongside creating an environment of trust, one way to nurture employee engagement is to support their professional development by financing training, courses, and certification. When everyone feels supported, the whole team becomes more cohesive.

Foster interpersonal relationships

Collaboration can go even further in organizations where employees and managers are encouraged to build networks across the business, not just with a small number of day-to-day contacts. This enables a broader flow of ideas throughout the company and a better sense of community at work.

Encourage communication

Engagement and interpersonal networks are underpinned by good communication. As a leader, you can set an expectation for how regularly and how transparently each team member is expected to communicate. You can also set up structured meetings and focus on facilitating the flow of information in these meetings.

This is perhaps the most important part of productive collaboration. If employees feel comfortable communicating openly, collaboration is more likely to be successful.

Learn from your mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable when making business decisions. When managers encourage their employees to offer feedback on how they felt a project went or how it could have been improved, they can get a greater range of possible solutions for the future.

Start creating a collaborative approach

Now that you know what it takes to be a successful collaborative leader, you can make use of this management practice yourself, driving innovation and empowering your team in the process.

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