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The  Work Group for Community Health and Development  at the University of Kansas maintains a Community Toolbox at  This toolbox contains a very good section on collaborative leadership -

This includes the following sections:

What is collaborative leadership?

Why practice collaborative leadership?

When is collaborative leadership appropriate?

Who are real and potential collaborative leaders?

How do you practice collaborative leadership?

What is collaborative leadership?
You know that important characteristics of collaborative leadership are:

__ Insistence on collaborative problem-solving and decision-making.
__ Maintenance of an open process.
__ Leadership of a process, rather than of people.

Why practice collaborative leadership?
You know that advantages of collaborative leadership include:

__ Buy-in.
__ More involvement in implementation.
__ Trust building.
__ Elimination of turf issues.
__ Access to more and better information and ideas.
__ Better opportunity for substantive results..
__ Generation of new leadership.
__ Community or organizational empowerment.
__ Fundamental change for the better in the ways communities and organizations operate.

You recognize some disadvantages of collaborative leadership:

__ It's time-consuming.
__ It demands the ability to face conflict directly
__ It may mean trying to overcome resistance to the whole idea of collaborative leadership.
__ It can lead to groups taking what seems to you to be the wrong path.
__ It demands that leaders subordinate their egos.

When is collaborative leadership appropriate?
You practice collaborative leadership when:

__ Problems are serious and complex, and both affect and require attention from a number of individuals and groups.
__ There are a number of diverse stakeholders, or stakeholders with varied interests.
__ Other attempts at solutions haven't worked.
__ An issue affects a whole organization or a whole community.
__ Inclusiveness and empowerment are goals of the process from the beginning.

Who are real and potential collaborative leaders?
You recognize collaborative leaders as people who:

__ Have community credibility.
__ Relate respectfully and easily to all groups in the community.
__ Have good facilitation skills.
__ Can act as catalysts for the collaborative process.
__ Nurture new leadership.
__ Have a commitment to the collaborative, open process.
__ Focus on the good of the organization, collaborative or community as a whole.

How do you practice collaborative leadership?
You lead the process:

__ You help the group set norms that it can live by, and that encourage respect, participation, and trust.
__ You assure that everyone gets heard.
__ You encourage and model inclusiveness.
__ You help people make real connections with one another.
__ You mediate conflicts and disputes.
__ You help the group create and use mechanisms for soliciting ideas.
__ You maintain collaborative problem-solving and decision-making.
__ You push the group toward effectiveness by:
__ You help the group choose initial projects that are doable, in order to build confidence and demonstrate collaborative success.
__ You help the group identify and obtain the necessary resources to do the work.
__ You insist on and protect an open process,
__ You keep the group focused on what's best for the organization, collaborative, or community as a whole, rather than on individual interests.

You recognize and use the leadership context:

__ You know (or learn about) the community:

  • Its history (including its history with the current issue).
  • Its people and organizations and their relationships with one another.
  • Its current situation.

__ You understand the nature of the problem, including factors unique to the community.
__ You understand potential barriers to collaboration, and how to overcome them.
__ You know how open people are to change, and where you have to start in order to be successful.
__ You motivate the group and keep them focused on the goals.
__ You are realistic about what the group can take on at any given time.
__ You are flexible in your dealings with people and ideas.
__ You are inflexible in your protection of the inclusive, open, collaborative process.
__ You forego the need to satisfy your ego.
__ You encourage new ideas from others.
__ You encourage new leadership from within the group.
__ You step aside, temporarily or permanently, when appropriate.

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