Collaborative Leadership?

At first glance, these two words seem to make sense. Good leaders listen to their team, leverage their expertise and consider their suggestions. After all, isn’t that what the adage, “There is no ‘I’ in team” means?  But, too much collaboration can lead to ineffective management.

Over the years, I have managed numerous teams of various sizes and capabilities, and now as a consultant working closely with executives daily, I have insight into many team models. No matter the make-up of the group, one concept remains true. A real leader, a successful leader makes the hard decisions and sets the direction. In other words, they do not let the collaboration become the ONLY mechanism for making the final call.

Here are a few key observations I have made that immediately help me recognize that I have a “collaborative leader” challenge on my hands.

  • Decisions never appear to be final. For example, after a team meeting, the leader feels compelled to call individuals and make sure they are good with the decision.  Which means conversations are shared, and team members assume the final answer is never really final.
  • Team members prefer to voice their “real” opinions or mention their concerns one-on-one versus a team meeting as the leader is easily swayed.
  • When at an impasse, the leader opts to table the issue for now, and the item up for discussion becomes an on-going agenda item for months.
  • Team members are usually confused and cannot clearly articulate goals, directions for getting there and the anticipated outcome or result.
  • Others comment that the team never really accomplishes much, and there is some notoriety in how little they actually can complete.

This type of leadership creates frustration and will create a team of wayward folks who spend a lot of time “back-channeling” and confirming information. In other words, wasting time.  Eventually, those people you hired because of their knowledge and ability to produce great work will look elsewhere for employment. They simply won’t be able to tolerate the dysfunction and move on.

Sometimes there is an “I” in team. It’s the one in charge!

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