10 Features of Successful Collaboration Initiatives

Collaboration for sustainability requires well-functioning groups of collective leaders. Such leaders can be labeled management teams, project teams, core groups, committees, partnership teams, task forces, working groups or a leaders network but what they all have in common is that they work together as a collective.


How can we identify common features that make all these different groups successful, that enable them to “change the world” (even if it is only a portion of the world)?

These are the ten features that I have observed in well functioning teams within collaboration initiatives:

  1. There was an urgent case for change and it was clear to everybody.
  2. People were dedicated to, and emotionally engaged with, a goal, even if they differed in how to bring it about.
  3. Whether hierarchy existed within the group or not – the atmosphere was non-hierarchical.
  4. People were prepared to take on diverse leadership roles – from engagement to advocacy, from pushing plans through to tediously monitoring implementation, from backstage diplomacy to facilitation and brokering – whatever worked best.
  5. People learned to understand each other’s languages, to be open to differences in institutional cultures, organizational procedures, communication experiences and personalities.
  6. People were willing to hold the change process collectively, carry the goal forward and step in for each other – through phases of success as much as through phases of conflicts, doubts, mistrust or failure.
  7. There was an attitude of openness towards learning that everybody shared.
  8. People were willing to embrace the complexity of the task and move forward step by step.
  9. Value-contribution was more important than ego-gratification.
  10. The collaboration goal was seen in a larger context of contributing to sustainability

When these features are present, a group becomes a good container for change. What does this mean? When a group functions in a healthy way they become the container in which the seeds of a change initiative are able to grow from and flourish into the world. At the same time, the collaboration group also becomes the driving force guiding a process and gradually building a larger community for change.

Paying attention to the six dimensions of the Collective Leadership Compass helps us build good containers . When creating a container is seen as a collective task, everybody can become a guardian of the quality of each interaction. In other words, each member of a committed group will feel responsible to create interactions which work and build not only their own competences but also that of the group.


When building collaboration initiatives we can apply the same three steps needed to enhance our individual leadership competences.

  1. Start with observing the existing pattern of all six dimensions.  Appreciate what is present, assesses what is missing and evaluate the situation collectively.
  2. Once awareness of the current patterns exist , focusing is a process which builds on the strength of the group, shifts the development areas and discovers a starting point for better co-creation. This leads to more consciously enacting the dimensions of the Collective Leadership Compass.
  3. Lastly, we integrate the dimensions into action plans, test them in the real world, observe how the pattern changes, and review the results.

As Margaret Mead so wisely said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” When we create small committed groups of collaborative leaders, functioning as good containers, we can indeed change the world.


leading-collectively-means-overcoming-silosThis blog post looks at the Collective Leadership Compass as a whole and here specifically at the level of collective leadership skills.  For more insights on leading collectively with the Compass, subscribe to my blog. For more information on the Art of Leading Collectively, checkout the inside the book and  reviews on amazon.com, or get inspired by an onsite course that takes the compass into the daily challenges of navigating complex change

Categories: Allgemein and Living the six capacities of Collective Leadership.

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