Collaborate to enhance decision-making

Leadership style listens to viewpoints of all, builds cross-functional teams.

August 11, 2021

Leaders build trust by investing in relationships and encouraging diversity of thought. It’s also one of the first steps leaders take when adopting a collaborative leadership style.

“Putting Collaborative Leadership into Practice,” a white paper from the CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council, examines collaborative leadership and how to put this approach into practice.

With collaborative leadership, team members combine their knowledge and expertise to enhance the quality of their decisions as opposed to a top-down or hierarchical leadership style where a limited number of leaders make decisions for the entire organization. 

“Collaborative leadership involves the ability to leverage ideas, experience, and output across a team or multiple teams within an organization,” says Michelle Grabicki, founder/CEO of Luminous Leadership Group. “Collaborative leadership values the input from all participants and requires clear communication and feedback.”

This leadership style also focuses on building cross-functional teams and relationships to “help lead teams in whatever the goals and objectives are for the bigger organization,” says Ginger Galloway, vice president of human resources at $528 million asset LA Financial Credit Union in Pasadena, Calif. Understand what role each person plays and what strengths and weaknesses they bring to the team.

‘Collaborative leadership values the input from all participants and requires clear communication and feedback.’
Michelle Grabicki

Trust, communication, and accountability are three critical components of collaborative leadership. Three steps to apply these to your organization:

  1. Assess the current state. Assess the level of trust in your credit union and determine what elements of collaborative leadership are already in place. “If trust and empowerment are not present in top leadership, that is where work needs to begin,” Grabicki says.
  2. Evaluate your communication. Identify your communication channels and your plan for communicating. Also determine the goals and timeline for your communication plan. Err on the side of overcommunication, Grabicki says.
  3. Prioritize accountability. Understand that you’ll make mistakes along the way. “How these missteps are handled will have a tremendous influence on future work,” Grabicki says. “Accountability can be handled with kindness, and the moments where things do not go well often have more influence on future success than when everything goes well.”