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What Does It Take to Be a Collaborative Leader?

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/9/2013

They’re often referred to as “soft skills”—those sometimes intangible qualities that good to great alliance managers have and which they deploy so skillfully to bring diverse stakeholders together, shepherd complex alliances to the next milestone and the one after that, resolve difficult problems, and drive collaborations through to success.

But there’s nothing soft about these rare and important qualities—in fact they’re the very necessary components that make up not only today’s alliance professionals, but tomorrow’s collaborative leaders, according to Chris Elliott, director of Australia-based strategic relationship consultancy PeopleForce Pty Ltd. Elliott’s presentation at the just-concluded 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “The Collaborative Leader: New Leadership Skills for a Connected and Collaborative Future,” laid out some of the skills that great alliance managers have, as well as those that will be required as the future grows increasingly connected and collaborative.

These skills include what Elliott called “presencing,” a way of learning that not only reflects on the experiences of the past, but senses the future as it emerges, being open to it and learning from it. Alliance professionals also practice a type of leadership that spans organizational and cultural boundaries, crossing or strengthening those boundaries as dictated by the needs of any particular alliance. Furthermore, Elliott highlighted six particular skills—three pairs, actually—that are essential to the collaborative leader of the rapidly oncoming future: buffering and reflecting; connecting and creating shared identity; and weaving and transforming. These kinds of skills, in Elliott’s view, are “unique gifts” that differentiate and elevate the role of the alliance manager.

Even the questions for reflection that Elliott left Summit attendees with were thought-provoking:
  1. If I were a clairvoyant, and you could ask me three questions about what will happen in your alliance over the next 18 months, what would those three questions be?
  2. As a collaborative leader, what is the transformational impact you are committed to have on the future of your alliance or collaboration? Describe your commitment: “I am committed to…”
  3. Within the next two to three weeks, what is the action or conversation you must have, and with whom, to bring about the transformational shift in your collaboration or alliance?
  4. What are the “unique gifts” that you bring to this collaborative leadership opportunity?
Elliott encouraged alliance managers to view themselves as forward thinkers, able to see a couple steps ahead of senior leadership, as well as change agents who have the power to transform organizations and individuals. He also urged alliance pros to get more involved in ASAP.

“It’s a platform, and the more involved you are, the more we can make this revolution,” Elliott said. “You are bridge builders. You are connected.”

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