We have built a world in which silos – nations, companies, people – compete with each other and world leaders and many of their followers act accordingly. But if we want to move the world towards a more sustainable future we need overcome our silo-mentality and explore the art of stakeholder collaboration. We need to see leadership as the capacity of a collective to catalyze and implement positive change for the common good, for a planet in ecological balance, an economy that serves humankind as whole and a global society where people support each other’s development. This can only be done in multi-actor collaboration – locally, nationally, regionally and globally.
Just imagine that – in such kind of future – a group of leaders (e.g. from business, government, NGO), influential people or even ordinary people jointly and collaboratively deliver their part for a more sustainable future – while putting high priority on the common good over their particular (national, organizational, business, personal) interest. In fact, this is already happening in many multi-stakeholder initiatives – for responsible supply chains, better resource management, adaptation to climate change, or social innovation. I think it is important to observe and acknowledge, how leaders lead in such complex multi-actor setting and how they enhance collective action and a spirit of result-oriented collaboration.
These are my observations from many years of working with multi-stakeholder collaboration:
- They are persistent in their attempt to lead future possibilities – they have a relentless commitment to bring about change, even in the face of difficulties.
- They see the unknown not as a threat but as a potential and they know that they have embarked on a global learning journey. They more likely spot innovative solutions.
- They know that we cannot travel the path towards sustainability in silos, hence they value the art of dialogue and harness collective intelligence, so that it can complement individual expertise.
- They engage stakeholders authentically because they have seen that people who have been part of creating solutions are likely to be active drivers in implementation.
- They look beyond their actions and see them from a larger perspective. They are open to multi-layer feedback loops, enabling them to continuously improve their contribution to sustainability. Sensing the whole becomes second nature to them.
- Even in the midst of performance demands they access the humanity that connects us all in the world, no matter how much we differ in approach, opinion, colour, culture, skills or wealth – and interest.
These faculties are not new; they are as old as humankind. They belong to the set of human competences. What is new that collective leaders pay conscious attention to their joint presence – in the way we the way we build and lead initiatives for sustainability. This helps them navigate through human difficulties and enhances the vitality and resilience of individuals and collectives.
This blog post looks at the Collective Leadership Compass as a whole and here specifically at the individual level – what makes people who lead collectively different. 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.