10 Collaborative Leadership Characteristics

Collaborative leadership is a style practiced by leaders who recognize the importance of interpersonal relationships and cross functional collaborations for organizational success.

These individuals are able to facilitate interactions between employees and business partners of different levels and have the patience to deal with very high levels of frustration.

The following are the key distinguishing attributes of collaborative leaders:

1. Balanced motivations

The leader wishes to generate value, wherever they work. They are always looking to use motivation and influence to create social impact and also generate wealth for stakeholders.

2. Not a control freak

A collaborative leader understands the real truth is that nobody is ever in complete control of external circumstances. People may follow your instructions because they fear punishment, but you can get them to genuinely commit to a cause only by truly motivating and inspiring them. A collaborative leader seeks not to control, but to inspire others and work together as a team.

3. Transferable skills

For successful collaborative leadership, the leader must have a set of skills that are considered to be of value across multiple functions and sectors. Stakeholder management, strategic planning, quantitative analysis, and ability to motivate are some of the skills that this leader would process.

4. Horizontal leadership

Collaborative leadership is all about breaking down walls and silos and building close cross-functional relationships based on trust and communication. The leader does not restrict their focus only on direct reports but instead embraces the team. It takes strong relationship skills and a great deal of influence to be able to lead a horizontal team. This is the true hallmark of a collaborative leader.

5. Risk-taking is encouraged

Working under a collaborative leader is great for personal and professional growth because they are forever encouraging employees to take risks. They create an atmosphere of trust and security, which makes employees open to taking risks. Without risks, there will be no creativity, innovation, growth.

6. Contextual intelligence

Since the style of leadership involves people from different functional areas across the organization, the leader is likely to possess contextual intelligence, or the ability to have empathy for differences inside and between sectors, especially relating to culture, language, and performance indicators.

7. Openly share information

Unless the information is shared openly across the organization, it is not possible to create an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. A collaborative leader ensures a steady stream of business and market intelligence to pass through multiple teams to facilitate better decision-making and to improve agility.

8. Constructive conflict

When people are encouraged to openly voice their opinions and to take risks, it is only natural that conflicts emerge. A collaborative leader understands that such constructive conflict is necessary for the growth of the organization and for fine-tuning rough ideas.

9. Intellectual thread

This leader is able to understand a particular issue from the point of view of different sectors. Inter-sector problems are best handled by a collaborative leader because he has the ability and well-rounded subject matter expertise to understand multiple perspectives of the same issue.

10. Strong network

Collaborative leaders do not burn bridges. In fact, he is heavily invested in cultivating strong relationships everywhere. He’s likely to draw on this strong integrated network to advance their career, or to build great teams for the organization.

Leadership in turbulent times requires diplomacy, willingness to relinquish control, and moving towards a collaborative way of doing things. Here, individuals at all levels are encouraged to take initiative and act in a manner that contributes to achieving the overall vision of the organization.

Y Scouts is a leadership search practice that connects purpose-driven organizations with purpose-driven leaders. We believe that the best employer and employee connections start by connecting through a shared purpose.

What’s Your Why? Click here if you’re an employer looking to find a collaborative leader. Click here if you want to make a difference in a new leadership role.


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