How do we develop our ability to really help people grow and change along a continuum? We get tired when we think that leadership is an event. I’d like you to consider that leadership is a process. And that helping other people develop their leadership skills moves along a continuum, it’s developmental.


Stage 1: Compliance

The first developmental focus is always on Compliance: helping people do what they say they are going to do in a way that is both efficient and effective. And being able to use the systems in such a way that we get the tasks done effectively and efficiently.


Stage 2: Cooperation

But the second stage of leadership development is really about Cooperation. Cooperation is about how I do my job and how I see other people doing their jobs, and that both of those are important. I’m effective at completing my tasks and I’m effective at helping other people. But there’s another step at the cooperative level that is: How do I learn to engage with co-creating what we should be doing, not just how? But at the cooperative level, everybody begins to learn the skills to make a cooperative decision. It isn’t about just getting along. That’s a pretty low level standard of behavioural skills. Getting along is like a C+. We have a much higher possibility of being together in the world and that is when we cooperate: I can see the benefit for myself and I can see the benefit for you.


Stage 3: Collaboration

The third stage is Collaboration. Collaboration is when I can not only see my perspective and your perspective, but I develop the ability to jump outside of the whole situation, stand up on the moon, and see the whole system. In Collaboration one of the skills we develop right-away is that skill of perspective. Really recognizing if I’m seeing this through my eyes, am I seeing it through another persons eyes, or can I see the whole system. What’s going on in the whole system? And that’s a collaborative process. In order to develop collaborative process, I and other group members need to be able to really pay attention to what’s happened in the past, what’s really going in the present – having clear vision of what’s happening in the present, AND we can jump up and look at the possibilities of the future.

Because Collaboration is always used at its best when we are solving problems that we have never seen before, when we don’t know all of the solutions and we’re making it up as we go. We talk about that as being very “flexible”. That’s the word that we use but there are other skills than flexibility. The skill is being able to be grounded in the present, what’s going on in the present, and put some of your emotional energy out in the future, and be able to use that information as a way to inform our present decisions.

In collaboration everybody in the group has a voice. And, actually, the leadership moves around the room and in the group because everybody brings a very different skill and talent. That doesn’t mean that it’s chaotic. But it does mean we need to bring a lot of emotional intelligence to be able to sit in ambiguity. One of the skills that we need to be in a collaborative situation and use collaboration really effectively is to strengthen our ability to hold on to ambiguity.


So Compliance is getting the job done, being effective and efficient. And we help people learn how to do that. We then help people learn how to cooperate – “how do I do my job and help other people do their job”. And then we begin to develop that wonderful capacity to collaborate. And that is to function highly in the moment and to make decisions about the future together.


If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email. I’d love to hear from you: