Co-Creation: Exploring New Models of Shared Power and Collaborative Leadership 

Sustained collaboration and shared leadership are challenging, even amongst women. It requires awareness, commitment and a daily practice to navigate this complex and dynamic continuum.

Collaborative leadership is not merely a concept. Rather it is set of learnable principles and processes that mirror the interactions of natural ecosystems. Collaborative Leadership is about behaviors and approaches which foster mutual commitment and aligned action, facilitate peer-to-peer cooperation and problem solving, invite broad-based inclusion and participation, and sustained engagement and hope within and across a larger community.

Our Call as Women -- and Men -- Uniting for Humanity is to learn how to come together -- and remain together -- in sustainable harmony as we cultivate Beloved Community; To consciously and compassionately bring the disparate and complimentary parts of ourselves into right relationship, with Self and each other; and to honor the beauty of our unique identities while expressing the Oneness that connects us all. 

Collaborative Leadership Practices 

There are a number of critical skills and capacities collaborative leaders should possess, including those not necessarily unique to a collaborative form of leadership. These include: 

Assessing the Environment for Collaboration:  Understanding the context for change before you engage and act.  

Creating Clarity − Visioning & Mobilizing:  Defining shared vision and values and engaging people in positive action.  

Building Trust & Creating Safety:  Creating safe places for sharing hesitations and concerns, and developing shared purpose and action.  

Sharing Power and Influence:  Developing the synergy of people, organizations, and communities to accomplish goals, with a commitment to democratizing the process for broad participation.

Developing People − Mentoring and Coaching:  Committing to bringing out the best in others and realizing people are your key asset, each bringing something unique and essential to the process.

Self Reflection, Group Reflection and Continuous Improvement:  Being aware of and understanding our values, attitudes, and behaviors as they relate to our own leadership style and its impact on others, and on the process.

Each of these elements, and more, are key to the collaborative process. They are not mutually exclusive but support each other and provide a comprehensive picture of the essential skills of a collaborative leader.  

Assessing the Environment: This is the capacity to recognize common interests, especially the capacity to recognize and understand other perspectives. It is a fundamental quality of collaborative leadership. Collaboration seeks goal attainment around shared visions, purposes, and values. When he or she brings different points of views to an issue or problem, a collaborative leader facilitates connections and encourages group thinking that identifies clear, beneficial change for all participants. The goal is to set priorities and then identify barriers and obstacles to the achievement of priorities.  

Creating Clarity: Having clarity of values is a quality that characterizes collaborative leaders. Whether it is commitment to a cause that transcends the self, the recognition of a spiritual reality or imperative, ethical and moral standards that provide guidance -- whatever the source of the inner gyroscope—collaborative leaders seem to exhibit clarity of purpose, often about creating and sustaining a process. “Visioning and mobilizing,” in relation to clarity of values, has to do with a commitment to a process or a way of doing things. Often “mobilizing” refers specifically to helping people develop the confidence to take action and sustain their energies through difficult times. Clarity leads to focus which leads to increased group energy (power). Often too little time is spent in the process of “informal exploring” to understand problems, thereby developing clarity. A shared vision can be inspiring.  

Building Trust: The capacity to promote and sustain trust is often overlooked in the collaborative process. Leaders sometimes believe that, once individuals or groups are gathered together, a plan can be made easily and commitment obtained. If a collaborative leader fails to engender trust among participants, however, their involvement will wane, and the best ideas and innovative approaches will not be shared. In this context, the collaboration will have lost its capacity to draw the best ideas from those involved.  

Sharing Power and Influence: The capacity to share power and influence is an uncommon trait among leaders. American society traditionally rewards individual achievement, but collaboration cannot be achieved through a solo effort. Participants in the decision-making process need to feel empowered in order to contribute fully. Too often it is only the head of an organization who receives public accolades, despite the fact that the success was only possible through the shared effort and wide range of experience of a large team of people. Rather than being concerned about losing power through collaboration, leaders need to see that sharing power actually generates power…that power is not a finite resource. 

Developing People: This practice is best described as a genuine concern for bringing out the best in others, maximizing the use of other people’s talents and resources, building power through sharing power, and giving up ownership or control. These are themes that relate to realizing and promoting the potential in other people. Coaching and mentoring creates power, which increases leadership capacities and builds confidence by encouraging experimentation, goal-setting, and performance feedback. 

Self-Reflection: Collaborative leaders are personally mature. To be successful leading a collaborative process, individuals must use self-reflection to examine and understand their values and think about whether their behaviors are congruent with their values. At critical junctures in the collaborative process, through reflection, successful leaders make time to consider verbal and nonverbal communication within the group. They think critically about the impact their actions and words have on the group’s progress toward achieving its goals. Great collaborative leaders have the ability to recognize the impact of their behavior and adjust accordingly. 

Kimberly King




adapted from info developed by and with