How to Be a Collaborative Leader Who Empower Others

Board room full of executives listening to business CEO in meeting
Steve Debenport / E+ / Getty Images

Much of the literature published today on collaborative leadership focuses on leader effectiveness in connecting and aligning people to organizational goals. The most effective leadership style to do this would depend on your organization and culture, but contemporary thinking is that leaders be authentically collaborative and engaging.

How does a leader develop a collaborative leadership style that an entire organization would align with? These four suggestions can help leaders learn to develop a collaborative leadership style, including actions that can lead to better engagement.

Your Collaborative Personality Can Help Create Collaborative Relationships

Do you know yourself at a level that will enable you to work with others in collaborative relationships? Bay Area business coach, Sharon Strauss says learning is the basis by which we all develop, so she recommends leaders take an Enneagram for leadership. The Enneagram is a personality test based on nine personalities in human nature and their complex interrelationships. Strauss said:

The future of business depends on first understanding ourselves and our mindsets, and how we value collaboration of our teams.

Leaders may have to discover their collaborative traits as well as be open to other ideas and diversity of opinions. Ken Blanchard, a management expert and author, offers a case study at TaylorMade-Adidas Golf. The president and CEO, Mark King realized his company could be impacted by poor customer satisfaction, a result that came through customer surveys. King had to reflect on the organization’s culture, which he collaborated with others on his executive team who then decided its culture needed to change. How we feel about others can also be a large part of how we feel about ourselves and relate to others.

Your Authentic Leadership Can Empower People to Lead

Former CEO of Medtronic, Bill George is an advocate of empowerment. In a powerful lecture on business ethics given at Bentley College, titled True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, George summed it up this way:

In my experience — perhaps oversimplified — you can separate all leaders into two categories: those for whom leadership is about their success and those who are leading to serve others.

George helped to build Medtronic, a company that could help other people through its life-saving products. George learned in his early years where his innate ability lies — to truly serve other people.

The command and control leadership is dead, says George. Instead, he offers, a leadership definition for new generations of leaders:

They are authentic leaders who bring people together around a shared mission and values and empower them to lead, in order to serve their customers while creating value for all their stakeholders.

Running Catalyst Events Can Nurture an Open and Empowered Culture

On, authors Herminia Ibarra and Morten T. Hansen share research and collective insights on how great CEOs keep their teams connected. In one example, Marc Benioff, the CEO of had observed some alarming posts on their social networking tool, Chatter. Of the 5,000 people employed in the company, many of the employees who had critical customer knowledge and were adding the most value to the company were unknown to Benioff’s executive management team.

This gap could spell a big problem for virtual teams located outside the home office, who would not have the benefit of ongoing in-person contact, to be known to the management team, and to have a communication vehicle to all levels of the organization. Benioff initiated a catalyst event by hosting a Chatter forum for the 200 executive team meeting with the rest of the employee base. The forum set the stage for executives and employees to share in a highly empowered exchange. This event demonstrates what leaders can do to break the barrier of hierarchal leadership practices that can be transforming and lead to the creation of an open and empowered culture.

Adding a CEO User Profile Can Create Better Engagement

Why should leadership be excluded from social collaboration tools? The CEO and executive leadership teams need to serve as role models for the rest of the organization, external partners, and customers.

The organizational leadership would be strengthened by new executive user profiles to act as champions throughout an enterprise. Some examples may include executive presence through shared communication activities, like video snippets delivered to company employees as shown at Black & Decker, blogging like Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and running catalyst events, like the one held at

The CEO user profile, as a new role defined in social tools, can bring about greater acceptance of the leadership agenda as it can be shared in a transparent way throughout the company that everybody can relate to.