Collective Leadership: The Next Frontier

By Glain Roberts-McCabe

I’ve been leading teams for over 30 years and coaching high potential leaders for 25. One of the mantras that I’ve always bought into is the idea that the best thing you can do for your team (or your organization) is work on yourself.

Over the past number of years, I’ve started to expand my thinking.

There’s no question that working on your self insight and self awareness is critical. As leaders, we have a deep responsibility to understand what makes us tick, how our biases and beliefs affect our behaviours and impact those around us, and what actions we need to take to make a positive impact.

But in today’s world of work, all that self-insight simply isn’t enough. It’s just the table-stakes.

Today’s world is so complex and the demands on leaders so great that we need to bury the notion that one leader can be all things, to all people, all the time.

Leadership needs to move away from the hierarchical, military model and move towards the reality that leading today is a full-contact team sport where we all have a role to play.

The Future of Leadership is in the Collective

What does this mean?

The highest performing organizations of the future will focus on helping leaders move beyond ego and tap into the strengths and potential of everyone on their teams. These leaders will know how to galvanize performance at an individual and collective level and will take collective ownership for a thriving company culture.

Organizations who learn how to build leadership networks, not simply great leaders, will be better positioned to manage the inevitable challenges, changes and curveballs that will come their way in a world that has its foot firmly on the accelerator.

3 Ways to Cultivate the Power of Collective

For decades, companies have spent time and attention in the leadership development space focusing on the individual leader. That’s good. But it’s not good enough. Here are three ways you can start to cultivate the power of collective leadership:

  1. Encourage deeper conversations: Work has always had a transactional nature: I do this task in exchange for this paycheque. That was fine in a primarily industrial model, but that was almost a century ago. Complex work requires more connection, more understanding of how to leverage each others’ strengths, more conversations on what really matters to each of us on an individual as well as a collective level. Take the time in learning programs and team meetings to pause to build connection. Try asking these three questions: What lit you up last week? What are you most looking forward to this week? What is getting in your way?
  2. Balance individual development with deeper team development: Sending leaders off to one-to-one coaching or training workshops has its place but don’t neglect building the collective insights of your teams. Helping the team see their strengths as a unit and address their collective opportunity areas together builds team culture in real-time. This is how we move from knowing our values to truly embodying our values as a team and a broader organization.
  3. Get on the same page: For collective leadership to really work, teams need to have ongoing and deep conversations about expectations and priorities. Annual offsites simply aren’t enough. Doing purposeful strategic recalibrations on both the business priorities AND the expectations we have of each other on how we will deliver those priorities is necessary strategic work. We say in coaching “what got you here, won’t get you there” and what got a team to high performance won’t keep them there given the dynamic world we’re operating in.

If you team is ready to move beyond “good enough” when it comes to developing your key leadership talent, we can help. Talk to us about how our group and team coaching programs drive long-term success.



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