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ATD Blog

Develop Collaborative Leadership Using Management Innovation

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

In ATD’s book Focus on Them (December 2018), I introduced a new methodology for developing collaborative leadership in chapter 3—collaboration. Here, I took the lead from management guru Gary Hamel to use management innovation to help close the collaborative leadership development gap that exists today. Hamel believes that management innovation matters most—versus product or process innovation—yet is rarely mentioned as an option for creating a competitive advantage in organizations. He defines management innovation as a “marked departure from customary organizational forms (principles, processes, and practices) that significantly alters the way the work of management is performed.”

With that as my backdrop, I introduced a new operating platform in the book for developing collaborative leadership—and leaders—who practice genuine team collaboration on the job. This methodology positions coaching as a critical application to help support the team’s efforts to sustain team performance. Based on research, without coaching the team’s performance improvement, efforts are likely to suffer.

Developing a collaborative mindset is an important first step to becoming a collaborative leader. In fact, a collaborative mindset is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “need-to-have” to effectively function in today’s VUCA world, constantly adapting to accelerating and unprecedented levels of change to achieve success.

As the team’s manager, developing a collaborative mindset starts by checking your underlying assumptions. For example, do you have positive underlying assumptions or beliefs about the potential of people to add value? If so, you’re well-positioned to apply several novel operating principles—and a series of competencies aligned with each of the principles—to practice effective team collaboration on the job. One example of an operating principle and associated competencies (in parentheses) is Focus on Team, Not Position (Change Agility/Adaptability and Learning Agility).

Developing collaborative leaders and leadership can be learned. It starts with training and is followed by ongoing coaching. Most of us don’t naturally function with a collaborative mindset due to various reasons, including culture, so it’s important to recognize that mindsets can’t be changed quickly as if hitting a light switch. Training and development are critical here.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of culture when it comes to practicing team collaboration. As the team’s manager, developing a culture of collaboration (on your team) may be your highest priority. Why? Without this in place, your efforts to produce winning outcomes will likely fall flat. This is the primary reason (based on research) why collaboration fails to work in teams (and organizations).

Collaborative leadership requires leaders to lead with mindset in managing people on their teams. That way, they help reinforce new operating principles and competencies focused on collaboration, leading to a marked departure in the way the team’s work gets accomplished.


Effective collaborative leaders understand the importance of developing their self-awareness and commit to a learning journey that is never-ending and requires their personal commitment, competence, and courage.

Want to learn more? Join me May 17–20 at the ATD 2020 International Conference & EXPO in Denver, Colorado.

About the Author

Winsor Jenkins is president of Winsor Jenkins & Associates, LLC, based in Portland, Oregon. As a leader who served in senior HR positions and contributed to the professional development of countless business executives, including HR managers, Winsor brings a deep knowledge about what it takes to achieve executive-level leadership in today's changing business landscape. He is the author of The Collaborator: Discover Soccer as a Metaphor for Global Business Leadership.

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