Collaborative Leadership

The premise of collaborative leadership says: If you bring the appropriate people together in constructive ways with good information, they will create authentic visions and strategies for addressing the shared concerns of the organization and community.

Each component of the premise is important:

  1. You must bring the appropriate people together – the collaboration must be broadly inclusive
  2. You must bring people together in constructive ways – design the process so that it can deal with different understandings of the issues, varying degrees of trust, and so that the process encourages people to work together
  3. Good information is critical to good decision-making – Involve experts in the process as informers, rather than drivers of the process

The traditional concept of leadership is that of the heroic leader – they have a vision, they assert it, they persuade us, and they gain followers. Collaborative leadership turns that concept upside down simply by saying that if we bring good people together in constructive ways, we will be able to make conscious, inclusive decisions.  We need to remember that how we decide is as important as what we decide. We often choose to focus on a solution rather than a process that brings us to a solution. Collaboration is more than a tool in a toolbox. When collaboration works, it reproduces and builds the characteristics of civic community, allowing us to deal with future issues in constructive ways. Collaboration builds social capital. Collaboration is the new leadership.

Collaborative Leadership

Featured Resources

Getting Started

Collaborative Leadership Literature Review

Review of Supporting Literature on Community Leadership

By Paul Born

What is the fundamental nature of community leadership and its applicability for communities today? These questions lead to a study of three interrelated, though distinct, themes. This review examines the Literature of Community, the Literature of Leadership and the Literature of Community Leadership. The literature in all these areas is extensive; the review below is not meant to be exhaustive but rather representational.

Nine Emerging & Connected Leadership Principles

Nine Emerging & Connected Leadership Principles

By Brenda Zimmerman, Curt Lindberg & Paul Plsek

This article, adapted from Edgeware: Lessons From Complexity Science for Health Care Leaders proposes principles of management that are consistent with an understanding of organizations as CASs. In the spirit of the subject matter, there is nothing sacred or permanent about this list. However, these principles do begin to give us a new way of thinking about and approaching our roles as leaders in organizations.

Taking It Further

Leadership Styles

Leadership Styles for Success in Collaborative Work

By W. Roger Miller and Jeffrey P. Miller

This paper explores the challenges and traits of successful non-profit collaborative partnerships. The paper includes a literature review; methods; findings; and, recommendations for further research.

Collaborative Leadership and Criminal Justice

Collaborative Leadership and Criminal Justice

By Madeline M. Carter

This article argues that leaders cannot lead those who choose not to follow. As such, to be effective, leaders must first appreciate the importance of their role in guiding their teams; second, have the qualities and attitudes essential to work in a group setting; third, exercise the political, interpersonal and process skills that will facilitate a successful outcome to the group’s work; and fourth, make the deliberate choice to take productive advantage of their span of influence.

Explore by Theme


To achieve large scale impact, leaders must learn to navigate complex systems that are continually shifting and changing.  Diagnosing the nature of the problem, understanding the components that make up the complex system and determining how you, as a leader, might effectively influence the system are key components of adaptive leadership. 

This spring, Tamarack partnered up with Collaboration for Impact to offer an Adaptive Leadership Masterclass series exploring these issues as well as the connections between leadership, authority and power. Explore some of the key resources.

2021 Collaborative Leadership Governance

Collaborative Leadership Governance

Offered Virtually June 3 & July 15, 2020

Join Liz Weaver and Sylvia Cheuy for a new virtual workshop designed to equip you to embed collaboration within your leadership and governance practices. This interactive workshop will include practical tips and tools for leading and supporting collaborative teams.  Build your collective governance tool kit.   

Learn More and Register