“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” — Ryunosuke Satoro
Generally, traits such as vision, charisma, thinking, intellect, decisiveness, clarity, confidence and action-orientation characterize leadership. All of these are important and necessary, but not sufficient. The biggest challenge for a collaborative leader is to drive results from a diverse set of people across geographies who may or may not have a direct reporting relationship with the leader. Leading in such a distributed and diverse environment demands one key skill which, in a way, binds everything else. That leadership skill is “self-awareness”.
Collaborative leaders are self-aware and know themselves. Self awareness is a continuous and growing understanding of one’s strengths, weaknesses, emotions, moods, values, attitudes and personality traits. On one hand, higher awareness of the self lends leader, the much required confidence and power through their strengths. On the other, it also keeps them reminded them of their own vulnerabilities and blind spots. Self awareness plays a central role in a leader’s ability to articulate vision, form strategies, drive motivation and energize the team. In a cut-throat business environment where leaders are expected to work round the clock, taking quality time out for self-reflection is so crucial to build self-awareness.
“Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…The power to choose, to respond, to change” – Stephen Covey
They are aware about others. Understanding of others is as important for a collaborative leader as understanding of the self. It is when a leader understands and plays by the strengths of people while complementing their weaknesses that they deliver exceptional results. Equipped with this understanding of others, they can allocate talent better to ensure that strengths complement weaknesses. With an open mind and acceptance of diversity, collaborative leaders constantly tune their leadership style to ensure that collective strengths outweigh weaknesses by a margin. Understanding of others also enables them to be empathetic in their approach when dealing with others.
They seek feedback. One of the most powerful ways for collaborative leaders to understand how they are perceived is to seek feedback. Collaborative leaders establish formal and informal forums to get the feedback from team members at all levels within the team through open ended questioning and careful listening. One of the ways to also get feedback is to ‘feel’ the behavior of team members with the leader and with each other.
They are culturally sensitive. The arena for leadership today is global and demands a very high degree of cultural awareness, sensitivity and emotional intelligence. While living in a different country or speaking a foreign language may not be always possible, it is always possible to understand the key cultural drivers, communication specifics and ways to build meaningful connections with others.
In the next post, we will look at a set of collaborative leadership traits that enable readers in fostering true collaboration. Stay tuned!
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In the series so far:
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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora