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Collaborative Leadership: Beliefs and Behaviors We Must Hold and Exhibit

We know that two heads are better than one and working through differences makes ideas and execution better, but we resist putting in the work required for true collaboration. Why? Because of our conditioning.

The beliefs we hold as an individualistic, immediate gratification society often prevent us from collaborating and put us into behavioral patterns that make it almost impossible.

Collaboration is an area I have personally struggled with for years. By nature, I’m a rugged individualist and tend toward going alone. I have a lot of ideas (and think mine are the best ideas), I like control, and I value getting things done well and quickly. These personal desires get in the way of my ability to collaborate well so I have to make a focused effort to bring others in and along.

For many years I didn’t value collaboration and even was rewarded for not collaborating well. However, building a business has helped me understand firsthand how important collaboration is for long term success and sustainability. We may be able to go faster alone but we go further together. I know that now. As I let go of my business and practice being about me and considered how we could build something that benefitted all of us and our clients well into the future, I had commit to changing my ways.

Examining the beliefs and behaviors held and exhibited by collaborative leaders against my own has been deeply challenging and very enlightening for me. As with all good personal and leadership development, it has forced me to consider how my lived experiences have shaped my beliefs and behaviors (some unintentionally) and consider which patterns of thinking and doing are holding me back from becoming my best and in this case, being collaborative.

In our coaching practice within The Restoration Project we really push our clients to go deeper than leadership skill development, but start with their identity and intentions. We do this because we know that our behavior is a reflection of our beliefs. In order for transformation to take place or for us to fulfill our potential, we must examine why we are the way we are: why do we believe what we believe and why do we do what we do?

When it comes to being collaborative, there are some beliefs that we must hold true. As we move through these you may feel some guilt or shame or other feelings because you are not aligned to these beliefs. That is normal, and it is also unnecessary. The first steps for change to take place are awareness and acknowledgement and I’m hopeful this list will help you become aware of and acknowledge where you need to shift your beliefs in order to be a more collaborative leader.

Beliefs you must hold to become a more collaborative leader: 

  • “We” is as important as “Me”

  • Trust and relationships must be built before we can do anything

  • Everyone’s voice is important 

  • There is no such thing as failure, only learning 

  • Growth is more important than comfort

  • I am here to learn and to serve (vs. know and do) 

  • I don’t have to have all the answers

  • I don’t have to be in control

What beliefs may be holding you back from being collaborative, or which of these do you need to lean into to become more collaborative? How can you shift your belief(s) in order to become more collaborative? (This is a tough question, so if you want more support, reach out to us at to explore individual coaching options.)

There are 3 common mistakes leaders make related to collaboration that signal to me their beliefs may need to shift:

  1. Don’t get input and bringing others along early on 

  2. Don’t set clear roles, goals and expectations 

  3. Don’t give yourself enough time to bring people together and get it right

These can be warning signals for you to dive deeper into your beliefs.

Now let’s look at behaviors that collaborative leaders exhibit.

  1. They are connectors Consider this snippet about being a connector from the Harvard Business Review article published in 2011 entitled Are You a Collaborative Leader? by Herminia Ibarra and Morten T. Hansen: In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell used the term “connector” to describe individuals who have many ties to different social worlds. It’s not the number of people they know that makes connectors significant, however; it’s their ability to link people, ideas, and resources that wouldn’t normally bump into one another. In business, connectors are critical facilitators of collaboration. Connectors are connecting the world outside to people inside, clients to employees, data to the right people, etc.

  2. They get curious and communicate  Collaborative leaders slow the process from idea to implementation or issue to execution. They involve people early and often in various steps of the collaboration process and ask a lot of questions so we thoroughly consider options and alternative viewpoints before making decisions.

  3. They force diversity and difficult conversations  Collaborative leaders recognize their power and privilege because of their position, and they proactively invite people in to share their perspective and use their voice. Especially those with different experiences than the majority. They are honest about what’s going well and what’s challenging, and admit their mistakes and celebrate failures along the way creating safety in the collaboration process. According to the HBR article mentioned above, collaborative leaders have a strong stance and play a strong hand – so the process doesn’t devolve into consensus They play the role of conductor to keep the train moving or music going. They also encourage constructive confrontation, tempered disagreements and have a way to bring people to a close & commitment.

  4. They work to get it right vs. get it done  Collaborative leaders build in think time, white space and margin. They practice preparedness and good discernment. When necessary, they allow space for things to settle and be figured out. In another reference from the HBR article titled Are you a Collaborative Leader, collaborative leaders focus on learning goals rather than performance goals to encourage collaboration. According to psychologist Carol Dweck, people are driven to do tasks by either performance or learning goals. When performance goals dominate an environment, people are motivated to show others that they have a valued attribute, such as intelligence or leadership. When learning goals dominate, they are motivated to develop the attribute. Performance goals, she finds, induce people to favor tasks that will make them look good over tasks that will help them learn. A shift toward learning goals will make managers more open to exploring opportunities to acquire knowledge from others.

  5. They practice patience and discipline Collaborative leaders assign clear decision rights and responsibilities, so that at the appropriate point someone can end the discussion and make a final call. They do the work ahead of time to frame up who needs to be involved, where we are (what step), who is playing what part, get a pulse on how everyone is feeling, and determine how we will continue to track and celebrate progress.

Collaboration requires commitment and investment. It starts with us. What do we believe and how are we behaving? Are we allowing collaboration to take place? Are we creating an environment where it is valued? Consider what Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

We are wishing you all the success you desire! Want more support in becoming a collaborative leader and creative collaborative environments? Reach out to us at to discuss your needs!

Written by: Lindsay Leahy, Dream Builder with The Restoration Project

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