Collaborative Leadership Blog

The TAO of Collaborative Leadership

At one company, the turnover rate is 53%. This is an extraordinary cost for any business, with the actual cost being at least 4 times the salary of each individual leaving, with a multiplier effect when the number of people leaving is above 20%. We live in a different work world—the workforce is younger, the medium is digital, expectations are higher, and in a growing economy, they can leave anytime they want.

In fact, the latest PwC Global Survey of thousands of CEOs in 77 countries found that:

Competitive advantage in the digital age lies not in securing the best technology, but in using and managing talent well—and that demands truly great leadership.….Where talent is mobile and autonomous, leaders must create a culture where innovation thrives, ideas spark into life and people…are bound together in a common cause.(Emphasis added)

 Great leadership, a culture free from fear, and an aligned workforce collectively focused on the same vision—these are all essential ingredients of collaborative leadership. In fact, I call it the TAO of Leadership, which is:

  • Trust: The essential ingredient in any relationship is trust; without it, results, quality, innovation, and morale suffer. Leadership’s primary responsibility is to create a culture of trust across the organization, by modeling principle-based behaviors—integrity, empathy, personal accountability—and no focus on power, hierarchy, or fear. These leaders are Chief Cultural Officers for their companies.
  • Alignment: Collaborative leaders are not only culture transformers, they are also business and organizational visionaries; they set the direction and enable their workforces to collectively align around the company’s values, mission, vision, and growth strategy.
  • Ownership: People take care of what they own—they don’t wash rented cars. Collaborative leaders find creative and consistent ways to engage their workforce, provide support for teams and individuals to own their work, and to realize that they matter to the organization.

The TAO of Collaborative Leadership does not require a special kind of leader. It does require leaders who understand the realities of today’s labor force and their preferences, are willing to lead by principle, eschew power and position as having more meaning than influence, will listen to their people, and are ready to transform their current culture.

The promise, as we have seen with a number of collaborative companies like Goretex, or Rho, Inc., is that rather than using the revolving door to get out, people are lining up to get in.