Dynamic Elements: Conscious and Collaborative Leadership

Dynamic Elements: Conscious and Collaborative Leadership

13.8 min read

Laura Perrymond

Leadership styles are based on the balance and overlapping of several core leadership frameworks (Styles, n.d.). According to Beck (2012), leadership effectiveness requires development in order to be aware of self-emotions, have control over these emotions, have empathy, and extend sound judgment. The value set of every leader is the basis from which their leadership styles develop and transition. Christmas (2011) states these values are influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors that shape the leaders of the times during a period of celebratory, visionary, and inclusive leadership transformation. It is through the transition and balance of leading and managing that the conscious and collaborative leadership processes are fostered for success.

Conscious Leadership

According to Schwerin (2012), this process is self-awareness or the conscious state and is an essential quality for successful leadership. Conscious leadership is a state of mind, the authenticity of being who they are (Wood, n.d.). It helps leaders understand their strengths and weakness and provides a foundation to reexamine and modify their conscious level leadership behavior (Schwerin, 2012). The conscious leader trusts in the union of people and systems.

Conscious leaders experience authentic power that is internally based. According to Wood (n.d.), they have a freedom that enables them to see beyond their own beliefs, opinions, judgments, and values. The conscious leader listens from an open heart and encourages those who have a different reality to express their views, fully and frankly (Wood, n.d.). They continue to learn and understand the vital nature of diversity (Wood, n.d.).

Komives, Mainella, Owen, Osteen, & Longerbeam (2005) discussed the grounded theory of leadership identity as a six-stage developmental process as depicted in Figure 1. The transitional stages in leadership identity are awareness, exploration-engagement, leader identified, leadership differentiated, generativity, and integration-synthesis. The participants in their study described their leadership identity as moving from a leader-centric view to one that embraces leadership as a collaborative and relational process and is central to the conscious and relational leader (Komives, et al., 2005).

Dynamic Elements: Conscious and Collaborative Leadership 6


                         Figure 1: Developing a Leadership Identity: Illustrating the Cycle

According to Komives, et al. (2005), participants in the study revealed the dynamic process of developing a leadership identity based on different experiences, new awareness of themselves in a leadership context at different ages, and identified various ways their experiences and context affected them. The essential development influences that fostered the development of a leadership identity included adult influences, peer influences, meaningful involvement, and reflective learning (Komives, et al., 2005). Developing oneself included a deepening self- awareness, building self-confidence, establishing interpersonal efficacy, applying new skills, and expanding motivation. The developing self category interacted with the category of group influences where engaging in groups, learning from membership continuity, and changing perceptions of groups influenced a person’s leadership identity.

Leadership identity, according to Komives, et al. (2005), is the cumulative confidence in one’s ability to engage with others to accomplish group objectives where a relational leadership identity appears to be a sense of self as one who believes that groups are comprised of interdependent members who do collaborative, relational leadership. As the group developed themselves throughout the stages, they changed their perceptions of groups and their roles within the groups.

The study noted the engagement in groups and feedback from group members informed the development of themselves as individuals shaping their individual awareness of who they were in relation to others. Their changing view of self with others had a direct bearing on their broadening view of leadership. Komives, et al. (2005) stated that those who viewed their interdependence with those around them viewed leadership as a relational process and leaders as anyone in the group who were contributing and collaborating in the process.

Boyatzis & McKee (2005) state that cultivating the capacity for mindfulness requires a process of intentional change to develop ourselves – deliberate, focused identification of our personal vision and our current reality, and conscious creation of engaging in a learning agenda.

This leadership role challenge requires leaders to engage in a conscious process of renewal both on a daily basis and over time. Boyatzis & McKee (2005) state that leaders need to transform their approach to managing themselves and to learn new behaviors and practices that enable sustainability of internal resonance and attunement with those they lead. According to Wood (n.d.), the consciousness shapes the leadership thinking resulting in change because individuals see a need to grow, learn, and change their behavior (Kezar, 2001). According to Legault (2012), horizontal and vertical growths are two-dimensional aspects to development. Horizontal growth occurs through exposure to life and its many learning processes. Horizontal development is the most common dimension due to the learning, training, and development practices. The focus is on expanding, deepening, and enriching one’s current way of making logic of the world. Vertical growth does not occur as often and is more powerful than horizontal growth because it transforms a person’s way of making sense toward taking a broader perspective and creates new ways for adults to think, feel, and act (Legault, 2012).

Legault (2012) describes successive stages or levels of learning that integrates prior stages into a more complex structure forming a tiered system. The first tier stages leaders at a pre-conventional level guided by their needs resulting in egocentric behavior. Conventional leaders at the second tier take on socio-centric or ethno-centric view where concern for others is limited to their immediate circle, workgroup, family, company, or nation. Legault (2012) further discusses the last tier as leaders in a post-conventional level taking on a world-centric view that encompasses the entire planet.

Turner (n.d.) identified six levels of leadership consciousness that a leader transitions through in the tiered system: diplomat, expert, achiever, individual, collaborator, and servant. Turner (n.d.) stated the diplomat acts to fit into work and social groups, meet others’ standards, behave correctly, and maintain face and status. The expert is interested in what unique skills they have that enable them to stand out from the group; however, they still define themselves in terms of the group. Turner (n.d.) shows that the achiever is interested in other viewpoints, in working effectively, and in achieving results.

The individualist’s key personal transition is in moving the source of authority in their lives from being external to internal making this shift the start of a new phase of the leadership journey (Turner, n.d.). As the collaborative transitions through the fifth level, they become clearer about who they are and what unique qualities and skills they bring in the stage. They tend to look out into the world to find ways of using their gifts and uniqueness as they step into the collaborator phase (Turner, n.d.).

Collaborative Leadership

The ability of individuals to build relationships is a definitive factor in determining the success or failure of leaders (Lester, 2011) across all divides. The collaborative leadership style uses influence, not authority; creates open work environment without fear where people want to work; keeps the purpose and vision alive; frees the team to question, analyze and investigate; and operates with integrity and authenticity (Pixton, n.d.). A collaborative leadership approach is a paradigm shift from a traditional leader to one that shares participative leadership and decision making at all levels and in multiple decision processes for its members (Lari, 2011). Successful collaboration often starts with one collaborative leader who identifies and convenes regularly a collaborative leadership team that focuses overall on the organization’s goals and objectives (Ohio, n.d.). It allows for the consideration of all viewpoints and enables all members’ ideas and contributions to matter (Lari, 2011).

Collaboration requires group decisions at all levels, sharing of all information, a process to stimulate the generation of ideas, team definition of accountability and self-selection, allowing mistakes – expecting success, and the matching of talent and interests with responsibilities (Pixton, n.d.). Collaborative leadership is effective for creating an environment conducive to meeting the social and economic changes confronting organizations and the world (Yukl, 2010).

The facilitation of collaboration requires new types of leadership styles and structures. It requires new leadership, management, and governance structures involving team approaches rather than single person approaches. Collaborative leadership offers a new way to solve old problems and take advantage of untapped opportunities by mobilizing collective expertise, clarifying problems, resolving conflicts, and building consensus to act (Ohio, n.d.).

A high degree of intention to change the culture to one of caring and collaboration demonstrates a transformational leadership model where relationship building is essential to the role of the leader (Lari, 2011). Proven results of collaborative leadership has seen increased productivity, a shared commitment to departmental goals, and improved quality of programs.

The greatest benefit of a shared leadership approach is a favorable impact on the preparation of future leaders. According to Raelin (2003), a leader’s work is not to get people to comply but to engage them, to support them, and keep the field clear so they can do meaningful work (Lari, 2011). Collaborative leadership is most effective when designed systematically to meet the needs of a changing culture.

The sixth level of the conscious leadership dynamic element is the servant phase. This stage finds the servant leader becoming increasingly integrated with their interpersonal skills as a conscious shift takes place and a systems perspective emerges. This is the sustainability phase. The servant leader acts to promote quality of life internationally by influencing positive change relative to equality, conflict resolution, creative technology, and ecology (Turner, n.d.) Servant leaders form mutually beneficial relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, community, and the larger society. They balance their time and are motivated by service to create a sustainable future for humanity and the planet (Turner, n.d.). This final level of leadership consciousness enables a leader to reassess their conscious level and transition to a corresponding stage while sustaining their leadership journey.

Sustaining Leadership

New ventures in conducting business require new ways to lead, manage, and govern that promotes collaborative leadership. Leadership and management challenges will require the skills of a conscious and collaborative leader for success (Lash, 2012). Collaborative leaders that support and promote collaboration environments build the cultural elements of trust, sharing, goals, innovation, environment, collaborative chaos, constructive confrontation, communication, community, and value (Mays, 2007). Building collaboration requires setting clear goals and objectives that are specific, measurable, and achievable. Along with the building process, Mays (2007) states leadership behaviors must be consciously inclusive, empowering, purposeful, ethical, and process-oriented. It is imperative to provide leadership in building relationships among the people and organizations to fulfill one’s core purpose (Mays, 2007).

Leading during times of great changes and challenging realities requires leadership that is assertive in expected and desired outcomes, examines logical opportunities and potential pitfalls, and embraces and ensures changes are consistent and supportive of the personal and organizational beliefs and values of the employees and the business constituencies (McFarlane, et al., 2011). The conscious and collaborative leader is a vital part of key factors including context, follower, and outcomes (MindTools, n.d.) that add to the success or failure of a dynamic and ongoing leadership progression.

Ferdig (2007) states that sustainability leadership reflects an emerging consciousness among people who are choosing to live their lives and lead their organizations in ways that account for their impact on the earth, society and the health of local and global economies. The role of the conscious leader includes capabilities beyond those we currently attribute to leaders, foremost learning what it means to be a leader with others instead of leadership of or over others (Ferdig, 2007).

Leaders who strive to develop themselves can have a meaningful effect on developing others towards a successful leader (Beck, 2012). Gutek (2011) states all leadership begins with self-leadership through discipline and precision. It is emphasized that leadership authority rests in the balance of relationships they form with the people they lead. Beck (2012) asserts that being mindful of your words and actions and being persistent in your efforts, your effectiveness and impact as a leader will increase.

Lord (2005) states when we grow as people and value more of our true selves, our true capabilities, and our true potential — we naturally become greater catalysts for the growth of all those around us including the organizations and societies that are socially constructed. The conscious and collaborative leader forms a self-awareness of behaviors, thoughts, actions, and communication. The need to develop conscious leaders has never been greater for organizations to deal with the complexity of the global economic environment and create opportunities for a sustainable future (Legault, 2012). The conscious leader inspires and evolves prominence, trusts in themself and others, and seeks an infinite opportunity to grow and learn. Accordingly, the conscious leader is inner-directed, leading with presence and serving those who follow. Conscious leadership starts with a fundamental shift in how leaders perceive reality calling for greater self-awareness and a more expansive leadership mind-set and world view (Anderson & Ackerman, 2011). The conscious and collaborative leadership elements are influencing factors in the effective and successful balance of the dynamic leadership progression.


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About the author:

Laura Perrymond is a Training Manager for county government. She is also a veteran having served in the U.S. Army. She received her Bachelor’s degree from City University and an Associate degree from Pierce College. She will receive her Master’s degree (MA-Leadership) from City University this May. You can email Laura at Perl35@hotmail.com

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