Due to the concept and framework of of the network, leading your collaborative partnership is founded on a shared leadership that is accepted, or even given, by the partners. The collaborative partnership is a type of social network made up of companies and organizations rather than individuals.  This being the case, you must remember that every organization in the network considers itself the center of its network and responsible for the well being of their organization while participating and supporting the collaborative network.  Since the collaborative network is a type of social network, the leadership of the network, or more accurately the network activities and initiatives, must be earned and given by the members of the network.  This collaborative network is something of a federation and the leaders of the network must essentially be elected by the group.

This selection of leaders will be encouraged and coordinated through the continuous improvement program that I have been recommending.  The continuous improvement program provides a means to identify the need of a leader and then it follows through with a means to allow and support the selection and agreement on the appropriate leader.  In addition to the framework and means to identify and select leaders, this continuous improvement program provides the governance framework for the collaborative network to support the interests and deliver the benefits and capabilities to the network.  The governance framework provides the means to communicate and prioritize initiatives,issues and resolution. 

I think that one of the most difficult hurdles to the success and longevity of the collaborative partnerships is a method to communicate, prioritize and sequence initiatives.  The continuous improvement program provide the framework to support these requirements.  In addition, the framework provides the means to govern and support not only the successful delivery of improvement initiatives, it also provides a method to support communication and shared leadership among your collaborative partners.  The challenge with leadership in the collaborative partnership framework is the means to gain consensus from the partners for selecting leaders.  Remember, your partners cannot simply be directed to perform or prioritize initiatives based on your needs, your partners must agree that the initiative provides benefits to the network and must agree on the direction and objectives.  This will take a great deal of patience and effort to gain and maintain the consensus.

Leadership in a collaborative partnership network is not bestowed for life, leadership in a collaborative partnership is agreed to for specific initiatives and must be earned based on requirements and abilities.  I think the most difficult thing about ensuring success of your partnership network is selecting and supporting leadership from across the partnership network.  It takes patience, open and honest communications, along with a strong commitment to the success of the network to ensure that this governance framework and grow and support the network.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you discussed engagement and participation with your collaborative partners?  What methods have you identified and incorporated to encourage participation?  Have you incorporated a practice to encourage your partners to take a leadership role in initiatives?