4 Ways to Be a More Collaborative Leader

UPDATED: May 14, 2022
PUBLISHED: May 14, 2022
4 Ways to Be a More Collaborative Leader

There are two types of leadership—“me” and “we.” Where do you fall? Do you like your office door closed, no distractions allowed? Or do you prefer your door open, interruptions welcome?

Beware that by tucking yourself away in the corner office, you are isolating yourself—and successful leadership requires collaboration, the opposite of isolation. So if you’re about to lock the door behind you, think instead about leaving it open, literally and figuratively. Shift from that detrimental “me” space to the more effective “we” space.

Effectively connecting with your team is more than paying lip service or showing your face on your way in or out of the building. Working in a truly collaborative way means understanding why you need to be a part of your team, rather than being apart from it.

If you are used to operating from a place of “This is my idea, my project, my outcome, my result and my credit,” it can be incredibly difficult to switch your mindset. But the business landscape has, and will, continue to change at a rapid rate—and you are only one person. You would need to be superhuman to be able to grasp every aspect of what is necessary to survive. Your team is absolutely essential to your continuing success. As a team, you have the complete skillset to turn average work into expert work, to turn threats into opportunities.

Try taking these small steps to make the transition:

1. Fix the working environment.

Don’t set yourself up in a cushy corner office with closed walls. Studies have shown that working within a collaborative physical environment actually improves team engagement and drives results. Why? Because collaborative workspaces engender a sense of belonging and a feeling that nobody is excluded from the big decisions that will affect the whole team. This doesn’t, however, mean that there isn’t a need for thoughtful “outspaces,” which allow for privacy, quiet and the chance to create and reflect.

2. Be vulnerable.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of your team is not weak—it is strong. It can and will lead to interpersonal connection.

If you are able to admit when you have made a less-than-stellar decision or that you are having trouble reaching a successful solution to a problem and need assistance, you will create trust. Opening up gives your team an assumed “permission” to speak up and admit if they need assistance, too. It also opens the opportunity for them to showcase skills you might not have recognized or acknowledged in the past.

3. Give credit where it’s due.

Too often, it is easy for a leader to stand solo in the spotlight, leaving the team in the shadows. That attitude creates an internal disconnect—and therefore a lack of trust and an unwillingness to give 100% to future projects.

Make sure that you are adequately acknowledging when your team members are the ones responsible for a result, whether that is an idea or a product. When someone adds value, it is essential to acknowledge that contribution—and to do it publicly.

4. Be brave.

Be willing to take risks for the benefit of your team—even if they may not ‌benefit you in the short term. Your team will see not just a leader but someone who has their collective interests at heart.

This requires a degree of business bravery. Think about this: How does your team currently view you? As someone who stands up for their best interests, or as someone who pushes everyone out of the way for the lifeboats?

Take a leap—not for those lifeboats, but for your team.

This article was published in August 2015 and has been updated. Photo by @andreeas/Twenty20

Sydney-based Janine Garner is an internationally-acclaimed entrepreneur and Fortune 500 mentor, keynote speaker and author. She is a partner at Thought Leaders Global, which helps clever people to become commercially smart, and the founder and CEO of the LBDGroup, a networking community that connects like-minded women together to help them achieve extraordinary growth. Janine is passionate about bringing brilliant people together to achieve remarkable results through collaboration, connection and influential leadership.

She is the winner of an International Stevie Award, a Top 10 finalist in the DARE Magazine Daredevil Awards and was listed in 2013 as one of Australia’s “Most Inspiring Women” by Madison Magazine. Janine is also the founder of Australia’s first gift giving circle, the First Seeds Fund, committed to supporting women and children at the grassroots of Australia with a focus on education and employment.

She is the author of From Me To We: Why Commercial Collaboration Will Future Proof Business, Leaders and Personal Success (Wiley 2015) and It’s Who You Know: How a Network of 12 Key People Can Fast-Track Your Success (Wiley 2017).