More than once in the past few weeks has the subject of leadership been raised in the context of collaborative working. We all appreciate the need for top cover when considering opening up the concepts of collaboration particularly within more traditionally based organisations. In the development of CRAFT and its progress to BS 11000 and now onward to ISO 11000 the role of the Senior Executive Responsible (SER) remains the first requirement to be adopted.
Leadership however is not just about the SER but is a crucial aspect of successfully exploiting collaboration throughout the organisation at every level and across organisation boundaries. Yet it is hard to see where many organisations are taking a positive step towards recognising the importance of developing the necessary skills or in some cases adapting operating processes, incentives or performance drivers that will support collaborative approaches. Too many times we see the executive acknowledging and promoting collaborative working which is generally welcomed at the working level but sadly often not supported by middle management.
The question is why this should be when it clearly has top level support and if thought through offers considerable benefits in what is a highly volatile business environment. In part one may suspect it is a case of "What's in it for me?" (WIFM) or perhaps more pertinent it's because these middle ranking leaders do not fully understand how to manage in such relationships having been conditioned by past experience.
It is frequently suggested that the problem with leadership is that leaders are benchmarked and selected by poor leaders reflecting Status Quo bias. Thus we perpetuate poor leadership. In a world which is dramatically changing we have to step back and take a long hard look at who will be the next generation of leaders that can operate effectively in a less well defined business arena.
It was these concerns that prompted ICW to extend its skills development course to include Collaborative Leadership and the introduction in association with Warwick University of an MSc module specifically focused on the theme.
If we are to develop and expend the effective use of cross organisational collaborative working then we need the leadership that will recognise the challenges, be proactive in supporting the appropriate use of collaboration and ready to invest in the next generation of leaders not constrain them through traditional command and control thinking.