I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people. —Mahatma Gandhi

Working together across organizations and systems requires developing and maintaining relationships, which takes time, practice, and intentionality. Some of the essential elements for building healthy relationships within collaborations include:

Trusting relationships are at the core of collaboration. Often, collaborations move into action quickly and need to be intentional about building trust. Here are the key elements:

    • Shared experience
    • Follow-through and credibility
    • Getting to know one another

To build this level of trust, collaborations should establish a set of values and “norms.” Here is a quick video about relationship building and some tips to get you started.

Continuous communication within the collaboration is critical to help gain information about what’s working and what’s not. Productive collaboration isn’t just about meetings, newsletters, and emails—it’s about communication and creating a feedback loop that spurs adaptive action.

Once a collaborative has created a shared agenda, it can be difficult translating those big ideas and ambitious goals into action. Focusing on "small wins" gives members something to do, and is essential for sustaining energy and momentum. To learn more about effective practices for collaboration structure and keeping members actively engaged, take a look at Committing to Collective Action.

It’s important that collaboration members learn about each other in order to build understanding of each other’s work, appreciate the values that drive each organization, and find areas of common interest and concern. Try this tool as a way for collaboration members to get to know each other and learn each other’s perspectives.

Sharing Power involves developing the interconnection of people, organizations, and communities to accomplish goals. Collaboration cannot be achieved alone. Each person and organization has something to offer, whether resources, tools, talents, networks, or knowledge. Realizing each of these is critical and helps build shared power. Success is possible through shared effort and wide range of perspectives and experience of a team of people. While some leaders might be concerned about losing power through collaboration, sharing power actually generates power. Learn more about governance ideas that promote shared power.

To put it simply, leadership guides the ship. While leadership style varies person to person, all effective leadership is built on trust. Strong leaders create a safe space for members to gather, achieve small wins, and share ideas. A reliable, adaptive leader provides clear communication and keeps harmful gossip to a minimum.

Leave a Comment