Many of the world’s great leaders have shown a love of collaborating with others. Richard Branson of the Virgin Group is an example of this in action. Virgin has seen tremendous success over the years, with Branson earning a net worth of $4.8 billion dollars from his many ventures. Along the way, he has gained a reputation for showcasing collaboration skills as he places value on his employees’ well-being.
As Branson explains, “To be successful in business, and in life, you need to connect and collaborate.” Even though he’s worth billions and has run the company for decades, he’s eager to learn from those he works with. He’s also quick to credit others for how well the company does. “Too much credit goes to me for what we have achieved at Virgin,” he once said. “The successes happen from working and learning with some of the world’s most inspiring and inspired people.”
Great leaders like Branson understand that collaboration skills can help leaders get things done more quickly and easily.
As you read this article, you’ll learn how you can develop collaboration skills that will help you show collaborative leadership. You’ll also see what a leader’s collaboration skills look like in practice.
What are Collaboration Skills?
Collaborative skills are the tools that help you work with others to accomplish tasks and goals. In essence, these skills are essential if you want to succeed, as no person can do it all independently. Developing effective collaboration skills requires a dose of humility and understanding, along with a willingness to help others succeed. So if you’re a leader who expects others to work as a team, it only makes sense that you hold yourself to that standard. By adopting collaboration skills, leaders can avoid siloed teams and promote greater cooperation and success.
What Does a Collaborative Leader Look Like?
Every leader has different styles and approaches, but being a collaborative leader requires thinking beyond yourself and working with team members toward a common goal. Look at the following examples of collaborative skills and see which ones you currently have and which ones you need to improve.
- Active Listening. Collaboration in the workplace begins with communication skills such as active listening. All communication is a two-way street, so anyone who works with a collaborative leader feels understood and heard when they speak.
- Humility. A leader with collaboration skills understands that their voice isn’t the only valuable one in the room. Because of this, they geniunely want to hear others’ thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.
- Delegation. John C. Maxwell has powerful advice when it comes to delegation: “If something can be done 80 percent as well by someone else, delegate!” Leaders with collaborative skills know they can’t do it all by themselves. They understand their own shortcomings and surround themselves with people who excel in the areas they fall short in.
- Effective Disagreement. Workplace collaboration doesn’t mean everyone agrees with each other all the time. Disagreements should still happen. The best leaders will practice effective disagreement, which provides constructive criticism and a better understanding of how to debate without being combative. It also allows them to hear new ideas contrary to their own.
- Big Picture Strategy. Collaborative leaders have a firm vision in mind. As they collaborate with others, they need to ensure their team members also understand that vision. This makes sure everything the team does is heading in the right direction. The important thing to remember is that leaders pull people toward a vision rather than pushing one onto them.
- Win-Win Mentality. A leader with a win-win mentality understands that things aren’t always a zero-sum game. By seeking win-win scenarios, they ensure their teams make progress and that everyone benefits. Nobody has to feel left out or like they’re getting the short end of the stick.
- Dependable. Above all, collaborative leaders are dependable. They’re willing to put in the hard work to get things done and hold themselves accountable if they fall short. People can quickly see through leaders who constantly put off responsibilities. In such cases, team collaboration is almost an impossibility. So leaders with collaborative skills like dependability set the example for everyone else around them.
Collaborative Leader Examples
No matter what type of business you run, collaborative skills are a must. Effective collaboration skills don’t have to be your strongest trait, but you need to have them in some fashion if you want to find success. As you look to hone your skills, check out the following list of leaders who show what their collaborative skills look like in action.
- Richard Branson. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Richard Branson places significant value on team collaboration. One way he’s shown this is by prioritizing employees over customers. “Clients do not come first,” he said. “Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
- Winston Churchill. The famous prime minister had a reputation for being stubborn, which would normally hinder collaboration effectiveness. However, Winston Churchill often surrounded himself with political opponents. He did this because he valued insight from people who thought differently than him. This helped him reach decisions he could feel more confident making.
- Abraham Lincoln. As President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln rarely did things on his own. For example, when he first drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln brought it to his cabinet members to get their advice. From their suggestions, he crafted further improvements for one of the most famous documents in United States history.
- Sheryl Sandberg. The COO of Facebook uses many collaboration skills as part of her job. Sheryl Sandberg has become a staunch advocate for listening to voices within the company that generally don’t get opportunities to speak up. She’s not afraid to let others chime in on important decisions. This approach helps to improve communication and make teamwork more efficient.
- Henry Ford. “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Those words from Henry Ford display one of his core philosophies of working with others to achieve incredible results. Much like Branson, Ford understood the need for employees’ contribution and treated them well. For instance, he pioneered higher wages and shorter workweeks for his workers, which helped the most talented stay loyal to his company.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. As powerful of a speaker as he was, Martin Luther King, Jr. knew he could not bring about change alone. King built a nationwide movement by working with others to communicate a vision for the future. He was keenly aware of that movement’s abilities, motives, and enthusiasm and capitalized on it by collaborating with others to get the message out.
A Word on Emotional Intelligence
It’s worth noting that all of the traits listed above are characteristics of people who possess strong leadership skills in emotional intelligence. In other words, the more you are aware of your own emotions, the more you can work on improving your collaboration skills. Effective collaboration occurs more easily and frequently when you have a high emotional quotient (the measure of emotional intelligence). However, for those without a high EQ, collaboration can be a chore.
A person with a lot of emotional intelligence is much more self-aware. As a result, they show confidence when working with people and listening to other points of view. As more employees become aware of their emotions and the emotions of others, they’ll feel more comfortable working together as they create something amazing.
So make a note of your emotional intelligence. If you find yourself lacking, you may need to figure out your identity. Having a clear sense of your identity can help you in all sorts of soft skills. That includes your interpersonal skills and collaborative skills. Without a clear identity, you could be holding yourself back from achieving your true potential as a collaborative leader.
Collaboration skills are all about teamwork. If you need to inspire people to be more collaborative, check out these excellent teamwork quotes.