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Collaborative Leadership

      Collaborative leadership came into public view in the early 1990s (Chrislip and Larson, 1994).  The fundamental premise of collaborative leadership is that any organization is only as strong as each individual’s collective strength within the organization. The strength of the contributors becomes evident through creative problem solving for shared concerns of the organizations.

      The collaborative leader encourages relationships that are grounded in commitment and prioritizes confidence in collaborators in the group. The resulting trusting relationship is mutually beneficial because as peer problem solvers, contributors encourage each other to achieve group and organizational goals beyond any individual goal (Chrislip & Larson, 1994; Pearce & Conger 2003). Collaborative leaders strike a balance between passionately leading others into collaboration and humbly guiding the collaborative process. Chrislip (2002) described that balance and said, “collaborative leaders are insistent yet not domineering, compelling but not heroic, credible rather than powerful (in the traditional sense), concerned with process as much as content, and much more behind the scenes than on center stage” (p. xiv).

      Collaborative leaders recognize the process of collaborating and producing output can often manifest slowly. Some contributors could construe a lack of immediate resolution as frustrating or pointless. The collaborative leader acknowledges those perspectives but also sees the process as advantageous.  In situations when it would be easier to quit rather than hard work, collaborative leaders build confidence, sustain hope and participation, and celebrate relationship-building value (Chrislip & Larson, 1994, p. 139-141; Huxham & Vangen, 2004, p. 191). Chrislip and Larson (1994) said, “communities transform in ways that achieve tangible results and, more important, change the way the community addresses complex public concerns.  [There is] a deeper sense of connectedness and community grows out of the interaction” (p. 146).

      The binding agent that contributes to the success of collaborative leadership is trust. The collaborative leader establishes a trusting camaraderie within the community, inspiring commitment, and action (Chrislip & Larson, 1994). The bond that is formed is strong, and solutions to more challenging issues are accessible. 

      In this fast-paced world with 24/7 connection and social and environmental problems that transcend local interests and, even, national boundaries, the tension between individualistic thinking and the collective welfare is particularly prominent and concerning. This is especially so in the current times of uncertainty related to the global pandemic of COVID 19.  People now, more than ever, are seeking experiences where they can be connected to something greater than themselves (Senge, 2006).  Through collaborative leadership, transitional religious professionals have the opportunity to create a broader sense of caring and responsibility.  We are all in this together.

Author: Amy Huntereece, PhD ABD, M. Ed.


Chrislip, D. (2002). The collaborative leadership fieldbook: A guide for citizens and civic leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chrislip, D. & Larson, C. (1994). Collaborative leadership: How citizens and civic leaders can make a difference. Jossey-Bass.

Huxham, C., & Vangen, S. (2004). Doing things collaboratively: Realizing the advantage or succumbing to inertia? Organizational Dynamics, 33(2), 190-201. 

Pearce, C. & Conger, J.  (2003). All those years ago: The historical underpinnings of shared leadership. Sage Publications, Inc.

Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. Doubleday. 

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