A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm. —Henrik Ibsen
A collaborative effort needs a core group of leaders to guide the group’s work and maintain the overall vision. Ideally, this leadership team would be a mix of decision makers and people with lived experience. Many collaboratives refer to this group as the “steering committee” or a “core team.”
The leadership team is comprised of key community members who are champions of early learning and may work in such diverse sectors as health and hospitals, child care, housing for low-income families, literacy programs, and immigrant support organizations. They are committed to active participation in the process. The best collaboratives are “leaderfull”—in other words, members are on equal footing and work together. Many groups find it helpful to tell members to “leave their titles at the door,” which is a process known as collaborative leadership.
Leadership development should be ongoing for any collaboration, as a strong skillset in adaptive leadership and change management enhances local system change efforts. The literature and training around adaptive leadership can help you understand systemic problem solving and why collaborative and flexible leadership is necessary to address those issues.
- Convene stakeholders
- Focus public attention and use framing as a tool
- Cultivate high aspirations
- Build a strong vision and let direction arise
- Chunk and link areas of work
- Strive for multiple—sometimes competing—action
- Court and mediate conflict and maintain “productive distress”
- Acknowledge multiple accountabilities and measures of progress