As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. Working collaboratively is becoming increasingly fundamental to the functionality of productive work environments. In fact, a global survey of over 7,000 organizations across the globe found that the most important trend identified was the need to build more networked, team-based organizations.
Often, the most innovative and useful ideas are born from collaborative work efforts that bring multiple perspectives to the table. Sharing ideas with a group compels people to feed off of each other’s creative energy and it encourages employees to work more effectively as part of a team.
But working as a team and teamwork don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. In order for collaborative work efforts to produce successful results, groups need the right environment and direction - and it all starts with great leadership.
This being said, the concept of a ‘great leader’ is largely up to the interpretation of those being led. Every employee will have a uniquely different perspective on what it takes to lead a team towards success, and how direction influences the outcome of collaborative work environments.
Productive work takes collaborative effort, and employees should get the sense that they are part of the bigger picture to help make a smooth transition from an individual to a collaborative mindset.
To get a better sense of how this impacts contemporary working environments, we asked around to find out what people of all ages, backgrounds and professions have to say about excellent leadership in collaborative settings.
Bill, 67 - Senior Consultant
Managers need to empower other team members to lead collaboratively as well as being leaders themselves. From years of working with all types of people, I’ve come to believe that there are four key aspects of the ideal leadership model: vision, communication, team empowerment and verification. Often I’ve seen management and leadership to be considered one and the same, but leaders can be any member of the team. At the same time, empowering leaders in collaborative environments can be more of a challenge if formal authority doesn’t exist.
Ryan, 38 - Managing Director
Great leadership starts with excellent organizational skills. Being able to assess the project as a whole is crucial when orienting it towards success. This includes identifying the skill sets of all team members involved, clearly outlining processes and determining overall objectives. A good leader will communicate their organizational plans and processes to everyone involved and will be sure to take feedback from others in order to strengthen their work.
Alexander, 28 - Flight Attendant
A good leader creates an open environment that encourages everyone to put their strengths to good use. Working in a confined space for long hours where we are held to high standards, our leader needs to have a good idea of how each of us can contribute to the best of our ability so that we stay on schedule and maintain our objectives. They also need to be able to align our team in a way that keeps us motivated and encourages us to work together.
Fuad, 23 - Legal Assistant
A good leader can communicate instructions effectively without having to explain themselves over and over. My boss, for example, is a lawyer in one of the top employment firms in the country. His instructions are always clear and concisely outlined, which allows me to do my job much more efficiently. I never have to seek further explanation, and that makes our collaborative efforts much more successful.
Jingwei, 21 - Digital Marketing Coordinator
I take direction well from a person who can be both a visionary and a realist; someone who can think outside the box but logically as well. When working on creative campaigns, having the ability to think this way makes idea-sharing and collaboration much easier, especially within teams made of all different personalities from all types of backgrounds. I admire leaders who bring a balanced and well-rounded approach to the work they do through work models that start with well-organized thought processes.
Meghan, 36 - Financial Operations Manager
A good leader should be able to create a positive environment for other staff by listening meaningfully, being decisive and by giving honest praise and constructive criticism - and accepting it, too. The work I do requires great precision and putting our heads together to get things done, so it’s important that leaders know how to admit mistakes and be willing to work towards solutions collaboratively.
Deanna, 52 - Administrative Assistant
For the majority of my career, I was a single mother, so it was very important to me that my boss was someone who could remain open-minded and sensitive to the needs of others. I wanted to have a career, but my priority was always to be present for my kids. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had always worked with leaders who were understanding of my desire to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and who didn’t let it have a negative impact on my career growth within the company.
Kaleigh, 32 - Health Care Program Coordinator
I work in an environment where communication plays a big role in determining the course of action we will take for the treatment of patients. This means that honesty and transparency are crucial qualities for people in leadership roles. We collaborate with different organizations on a regular basis, so leaders must be easily adaptable and able to work openly with all sorts of people. I also think sincerity and a passion for each project is crucial to achieving a positive and productive work environment.*Interviews have been edited for clarity