In one of his final interviews, the late philosopher and sociologist Zygmunt Bauman described the need perfectly, saying:
“We are all interdependent on each other. The distances between these dependencies have been vastly reduced…. and we have to develop models of collective action that work.”
Instinctively we know this is true – it’s why collaboration has become a buzz-word for so many organisations. And yet leadership interventions all too often reinforce siloed thinking, rather than interdependent action. If we really want to create organisations that are human, inclusive and adaptive to change then we need leadership programmes that enable meaningful collaboration.
Here are three ways that leadership programmes can drive collective action:
1) Focus on shared challenges
Many leadership programmes deal with a deficit of skills at a particular level in an organisation – “our top 20 are too risk averse” or “our middle managers don’t listen”.
This is a missed opportunity. Behavioural development should not be the sole focus of a leadership intervention. Instead start with systemic issues and ask how leadership (at all levels) can respond.
2) Identify and engage the right people
Leadership development no longer needs skewed nomination or application process. By deploying cutting-edge tools such as Social Network Analysis, we can quickly identify key influencers across an organisation.
Bringing together the formal power of hierarchy with the informal power of social networks is the most powerful way to make change happen.
3) Make it safe to experiment
Simply bringing together influencers from all levels of an organisation is not a guarantee of success. It was no surprise when Google identified psychological safety as the primary hallmark of a successful team across their business.
Creating a climate of safety is essential if we want people to bring their full selves to work, actually take risks and change the status quo.
In our ground-breaking Collaborative Leadership programme with the NHS we are tackling the barriers to psychological safety across nurses, consultants, GPs, medical directors and paramedics to ignite meaningful collaboration in order to improve patient care.