Power, Authority and Collaborative Leadership

Stronger collaborative leadership is fundamental to achieving progress and innovation. Collaboration seems so simple, yet is too often elusive. Disinterest, competing agendas and turf wars disrupt the opportunity to collaboratively create complex responses for complex problems.

Smart people do a great job on their own. That’s good for work that requires individual effort. With so much work now interdependent, that simply is not enough. The evidence is clear that high performance in groups is not about the smartest person in the room. The average intelligence of group members and the intelligence of the smartest group member do not strongly correlate with group performance.

Shared work tasks take longer and are harder than they need to be, because petty power plays rule. Too much time is spent fighting over who has higher status. This harms the ability of groups to work together. Shared commitments won’t stick in such an environment.

Organisations still have a long way to go in better managing collaboration capability, demands and quality. With a reconfiguration of engagement efforts to peer collaboration, organisations could significantly improve the quality of interaction, increase engagement and relieve leaders of some of the pressure they are under.

In their study of a US Fortune 500 technology company, Cross, Rebele & Grant found that 60% of workers wanted to spend less time responding to ad hoc collaboration requests, which they felt exhausted by. However, 40% wanted to spend more time training, coaching, and mentoring. It was not the amount, but the quality of interaction that really mattered. After contributions were adjusted to align with these preferences, the employees were less stressed and more engaged.

Yet few organisations are reaping the benefit of quality peer interaction. Most prioritise their efforts to increase engagement on either organisation-wide or leader-led strategies. Some see the potential in peer collaboration, but few are leveraging it.

And despite the opportunity that strengthening peer relationships presents, organisations continue to reward practices that fracture collective effort. They:

  • Reinforce power differentials by rewarding command and control styles, where only top leaders make decisions, and which reinforces silos;
  • Over-recognise individual achievement and under-recognise collective effort. ‘Stars’ might hit their numbers and gain plenty of attention for it, but they don’t contribute to the success of their colleagues; and
  • Provide little systematic opportunity for high quality peer interaction; there’s too much focus on low value meetings and decision-making processes that require multiple interactions for questionable gain.

The net result is that peers don’t collaborate, they compete, they reinforce their silos and protect their turf. And end up feeling exhausted and unproductive.

It is possible to harness the power of peers to improve collaboration. My one day workshop Power, authority and collaborative leadership will help you:

  • Gain clarity about the critical success factors for peer collaboration.
  • Take a fresh perspective on the dynamics of power, and how to use it to create shared outcomes.
  • Try out tactics for increasing personal authority in complex group dynamics.
  • Prim for success in collaborative interaction.
  • Create an action plan for increasing collaborative power.

Whitepaper #3 describes how to create advantage through peer collaboration. It will help you to take practical steps to improve collaboration.

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