Why is collaboration important in leadership?

4 Min Read

Collaboration means working together to create or achieve a collective goal. A collaborative team leader will give team members the opportunity to share ideas and contribute to a project. Whether you’re a solopreneur, freelancer or micro-business owner, this article will help you adopt the right set of skills to become a collaborative leader.

For leaders today, collaborative leadership is a vital source of competitive advantage as business environments are becoming increasingly team-based and partnership-oriented. In a small business, every employee matters, and according to an American Express report, a third of millennials believe that within 10 years “the CEO role will no longer be relevant in its current format”.

Defining collaborative leadership

Collaboration in leadership means bringing employees to work together using your management practice. A collaborative leader ensures that information and responsibility are shared equally among his or her team.

The key quality of a collaborative leader is emotional intelligence. This means possessing empathy and patience; attributes which enable a deeper understanding of the emotions and motivations of team members. Emotional intelligence can be nurtured through knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. Are you open to new ideas? Are you willing to learn from your employees? Start asking yourself these questions.

According to Harvard Business Review, a collaborative leader “requires strong skills in four areas: playing the role of connector, attracting diverse talent, modelling collaboration at the top, and showing a strong hand to keep teams from getting mired in debate”. Their research also suggests that these skills can be learned. To develop your leadership style, you must be willing to put aside your ego and balance your workforce by giving people permission to be their best.

Encourage shared knowledge, team focus and increased engagement in your employees by giving power and credit where it is due. If employees feel that you trust and understand them, they will take ownership of their work. Start to use the power of influence – for an introduction to this motivational technique, we recommend reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – rather than authority and watch your team come together for a mutual purpose. This breakthrough should propel team performance and banish power struggles.

A collaborative leader ensures that information and responsibility are shared equally among his or her team.”

Benefits of collaboration


Everyone needs feedback, even if you’re at the top of the food chain. When explaining ideas to the team you are, in theory, putting them into action for the first time. Constructive feedback will help to develop those ideas into the best that they can be. So, get brainstorming and collaborating with the people around you.

Pool talent and strengths

Some are more creative than others while some are more organised. A team united can be more competent than the individual alone and as a leader, you have the ability to utilise the knowledge, strengths and experience of your employees. This will also give your employees the opportunity to learn skills from their colleagues and build upon their own strengths.

Fast-track progress

Successful collaborations speed up processes and task completion. If you have important deadlines to meet or large scale projects to complete, the process of collaboration will enable your team members to divide and conquer.

Job satisfaction

Collaboration in leadership adds value to an employees’ position. If they feel that they are listened to, your team will feed good about what they do. This should lead to employee retention.

Tips for collaborative leadership

Knowing how to collaborate in leadership to build influential partnerships and networks is a key part of the modern workforce. But it isn’t always easy. Here are some of our top tips:

Develop a process for communication

Open communication is essential for collaboration, so if you haven’t already, adopt an open communication style. You can keep communication lines open by blocking out time in your diary for one-to-ones with employees. This will give you the opportunity to ensure transparency and share common goals throughout the team. A shared purpose is achieved through coordination.
Build trust and share information

A collaborative team is a group of people working together who trust each other and you, as the leader. The best way to achieve this is through transparent communication; honesty is the best policy when it comes to building trust. If goals are co-created and success is shared among the team, solid blocks of trust will start to form.

Value team members

In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, ranked as #1 Leadership Thinker in the World, “successful people become great leaders when they learn to shift the focus from themselves to others”. You can value the ideas and opinions of team members simply by giving them an opportunity to contribute to a project or discussion. In Development Dimensions International’s latest research with over 15,000 leaders from around the world, they looked at leaders’ conversational skills that had the highest impact on overall performance. At the very top of the list was empathy – specifically, the ability to listen and respond empathetically.

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another may take up valuable time and patience, but it is a great investment: a further discovery in the report was that only four out of ten leaders were proficient or strong in empathy. As a micro-business owner, you will gain a genuine professional advantage if your leadership ranks high in empathy.


Train and develop your skills in order to lead collaboratively. By reading this article, you have already embarked on your journey to learn more about the skills required for collaborative leadership. You can utilise employee training to teach your team about the specific skills required for collaboration, such as valuing others and engagement. This will not only up their core skill set but bond your workforce together.


As business roles are being redefined, collaboration in leadership is essential for survival as a freelancer, solopreneur or micro-business owner. It’s now necessary to update your skills and break down hierarchies in your business, whatever its size. Use your new collaborative leadership style to be forward-thinking and inspire people to engage in your mission in new and different ways.