Leaders Must Develop and Nurture Collaboration

Collaborative Leadership

“Individuals don’t win; teams do.”

–        Sam M. Walton

Today, we are living in a world that’s so interconnected, we share a global destiny. Advancing technologyis erasing boundaries between individuals, nations, and organizations; where interdependencies grow because of outsourcing and shared networks for production and supply chains. This inclusive world requires us to work together in achieving common goals that benefit the common good.

The African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” resonates perfectly in today’s world. This timeless call for collaboration urges us to garner value from differences of thought, ability, character, and contribution in a world as interconnected as today’s. It is through collaboration that Walmart has grown from a rural store in Bentonville, Arkansas, to an international operation reaching across the globe to Chandigarh, India, and achieving far more than anyone could have individually. Today, Walmart operates more than 8,400 stores with over 2 million associates in 15 countries.

Being Collaborative

Collaboration is a strategic choice to cooperate to achieve a common goal. In the early 20th century, Mary Parker Follett, a visionary and pioneer theorist described management as “the art of getting things done through people.” In other words, management is really about being collaboratively adept. When we look at leadership through this lens, we see collaboration is critical to success in today’s global business environment. It is through our purposeful relationship with one another that we are able to strive for true excellence in service to our customers, our associates and the communities where we operate.

Today’s complex business environment demands a different kind of leadership – an inclusive leader who can expertly manage diversity of thoughts, work styles, and customs while navigating constant change. A collaborative leader often influences people outside his or her reporting structure and provides guidance to cross-functional, multi-departmental, multi-cultural, and multi-national units. Such a leader needs to be highly adaptable to any situation, including frustrations, and be skilled at developing a wide array of interpersonal connections.

Championing collaborative leadership can be quite challenging, as it can bring change to the culture of an organization. Educating executives and managers will alter perspectives on how to get work done through inclusion, which can lead to higher levels of engagement.

How to lead effectively has been explored by many studies. An effective leader is a collaborative leader skilled in:

  • Providing guidance, hope and confidence – articulating a clear vision from the present to the desired future. Communicating clearly and listening actively.
  • Making bold decisions quickly and judiciously, as well as exercising great patience and understanding challenges.
  • Engaging people to get things done collaboratively and helping them bring their best to the task at hand. Treating people with respect.
  • Inspiring people to take action. Recognizing common interests – building consensus among teams.
  • Developing human capital through training and support for an organization’s present and future strategic success.
  • Investing in one’s own development through constant learning and disciplining oneself consciously to be an effective leader.
  • Living a life of integrity and being proficient in managing emotional, intellectual and spiritual self well.
  • Considering differing perspectives, staying open-minded and being aware of one’s own strengths and limitations.

Sam M. Walton, Walmart founder and a quintessential collaborative leader, realized from the very beginning that some of the most valuable assets of any organization are its people: “For us, treating our associates as important assets is not only right; it’s second nature, something that’s ingrained,” he said and it certainly holds true today. Each and every day, Walmart harnesses its wealth of individual collaborative leadership to ensure that it successfully serves its customers, associates and the larger world community.

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