Collaborative Leadership

Red arrow formed from pieces by people cooperating and working together
Image Description: Silhouettes of people are all walking in the same direction to the left. They are each holding a piece of red arrow that’s pointing to the left.

Every morning, I receive daily email meditations from Richard Rohr. I love them, and I recommend them to people all the time.

Richard Rohr sent a piece about collaborative leadership, juxtaposing it with the kind of leadership that dominates and determines decisions alone. He lifted up what is possible when leaders and entire communities begin to create cultures of collaboration. I like his list, so I’m going to share it today:

“Here are some insights into what every good, servant-hearted, nondual leader knows and practices, whether in community, in the workplace, or in the classroom. Creative leaders:

  • are seers of alternatives.
  • move forward by influencing events and inspiring people more than by ordering or demanding.
  • know that every one-sided solution is doomed to failure. It is never a lasting solution but only a postponement of the problem.
  • learn to study, discern, and search together with others for solutions.
  • know that total dilemmas are very few. We create many dilemmas because we are internally stuck, attached, fearful, over-identified with our position, needy of winning the case, or unable to entertain even the partial truth that the other opinion might be offering.
  • know that wisdom is ‘the art of the possible.’ The key question is no longer ‘How can I problem solve now and get this off my plate?” It is “How can this situation achieve good for the largest number and for future generations?’
  • continue finding and sharing new data and possibilities until they can work toward consensus from all sides.
  • want to increase both freedom and ownership among the group—not subservience, which will ultimately sabotage the work anyway.
  • emphasize the why of a decision and show how it is consistent with the group’s values.”

We can cultivate this kind of leadership. The challenge, of course, is learning how to organize communities in these ways when there are so many cultural pulls to keep organizing ourselves in top-down models. But new ways are always possible. They lead to an empowered community.

And sometimes, a community has to become empowered enough to say, “We want that.” When this happens, the community itself is the leader.

Renee Roederer

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