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Why Does Collaborative Leadership Matter… To You…NOW?
By Lucy Freedman

A simple reflection answers that question: when you hear the term collaborative leadership, do you put yourself in the shoes of the collaborative leader? Or do you read it as something that those people in leadership should adopt?

Your answer is the benchmark of the need for an essential evolutionary step. When everyone is aware of being a leader, assuming responsibility for communicating effectively, we'll have evolved to reach the potential of what collaboration can be.

Our flowing information economy replaces hierarchy with networks. "Personal power" exists in a new context. If you are reading this newsletter, you may be one of what demographers call "cultural creatives." That means that you are questioning old assumptions, seeking to improve society, and designing a lifestyle that is mobile, information-rich, and rather untraditional. You are likely to hold the ideal of workplace collaboration more consciously than many.

Whether or not this description fits you, recent events have shown us serious consequences of breakdowns in mutual understanding and collaboration.

In a world where we need to act in concert, not to destroy but to enhance life, there is plenty for all of us to do just to bring forth sustainable human and natural co-existence.

The self-indulgent 80's, and I don't know what to call the 90's yet, are over. It's time to apply what we've learned, and to extend our learning well beyond where we've been.

Meg Wheatley wrote a stunning article, "Bringing Life to Organizational Change" that you can access on the web at www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/life.html, where she points out that participation by each member of an organization is the only thing that keeps both alive.

She says that you can only learn to thrive by using principles, not rules or formulas. Each person, each member has a unique role and perspective which is essential to the whole. As Meg reminds us, no one actually carries out instructions as someone else gives them anyway. We each add our bit, and even though people who run organizations may be frustrated by this, the result is demonstrably better when the right people have input to how things are done. Chaotic systems have always been the norm even when we have pretended, in our Newtonian consciousness, that we can impose linear plans on living systems.

Collaborative Leadership is an expression that describes active involvement in the new pattern of organization. It brings with it a call for the skills and capacities to bridge differences and take action. How many of us, and people with whom we work, recognize that we need practice in personal / interpersonal skills, and that we need to do this consciously, together?

The attitudes and skills of Collaborative Leadership are the underlying behavioral structure represented by Syntax. Whatever your `personality style' or `learning style' or perceptual bias, you are always called upon to PLAN, LINK, BALANCE, INFORM, and LEARN. The additional leverage of having a common language for collaborating is enormous. Syntax helps weave mutual understanding into the fabric of organizational life.

One of the most enlightening moments in our many years of Advanced Learning Institutes came when Chris Thorsen, an Aikido master and consultant, taught us the concepts of WAZA and DO. Practicing techniques, following instructions, learning a discipline these are in the world of WAZA.

The incredible experience of flow that comes in the pursuit of mastery, the in-the-moment heightened presence that cannot be summoned on demand of our conscious minds, is referred to as the DO (pronounced "doe"). We know that the conscious practice of Syntax is in the world of WAZA, and the intent of practice is to be available for the experience of the DO.

Personal responsibility, or Collaborative Leadership, is more than just an attitude. It's willingness combined with capabilities. Syntax was developed so that you can equip yourself efficiently, simply, and with lots of real-world practice to be a learner of collaborative leadership, someone who doesn't wait for others to "get it" or to change, but who says, "What do we want? What will that get us and others? How will we know when we get there?"

Thank you for being one of those people. We are grateful for the many opportunities we have to pass the message along. When you are ready to work consciously on these principles, to engage in the WAZA, and to share them with others, we invite you to join us in a learning partnership. Meanwhile, know that you have like-minded allies over here!


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