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Collaborative Leadership Resources

Two students writing on the whiteboard

At the Wurtele Center for Leadership, we are in a constant state of learning and exploration around the nuances and strategies of collaborative leadership. Below are some resources that we have either created or collected to assist Smith College community members in their collaborative leadership and learning endeavors.

Forms of Collaboration

“Collaboration” is a term that is used to describe a wide range of team arrangements, which can lead to confusion when one team member means one thing by the term and another means something entirely different. We created a “Forms of Collaboration” graphic to delineate different forms of collaboration along a spectrum of autonomy and integration. The graphic is accompanied by a set of discussion questions, which can be used with groups of students, teams of staff members, academic departments or anyone else working toward a collaborative effort.

Tools for Building a Team

Teams that collaborate on a project often jump straight into “task mode,” without taking the time to understand one another and establish a common set of expectations for how they will work together. Research shows, however, how important it is to do the “maintenance” work necessary to establish a culture of psychological safety on a team before beginning work together. These resources and tools provide structured ways to do that:

  • Group Norms Worksheet—Use this worksheet with your team to help you establish some team agreements or norms around how you want to collaborate with one another.
  • Task & Maintenance Exercise—This exercise introduces the concepts of “task” and “maintenance” modes in groups (a concept we’ve adopted from the great work of our friends at Leadership+Design). Use this to help any team work on attending to the overall health of the team while also getting things done.

Collaborative Communication

Empathic communication is key to all collaborative work. Here are some resources for developing your and your team’s communication skills:

  • “Communication 101” Video—With the help of Emily Norton from the Design Thinking Initiative, we created this video for student leaders at Smith, to help them think about and practice empathic listening and communication with their peers.
  • Communication Practices—This document offers some exercises for groups to practice effective listening and communication skills. It is geared specifically toward student leaders, but it could be modified for other groups or teams.

Leading in a Diverse Community

Identity and cultural competency play an important role in how we lead and work collaboratively in teams. Here are some resources for developing skills to lead collaboratively in a diverse community:

Managing Conflict

Tensions and conflict are natural parts of working collaboratively with others. Instead of fearing and avoiding conflict, collaborative leaders work to embrace and harness conflict in order to move a group forward. We teamed up with Stacey Steinbach in Student Affairs to create a video for student leaders to help them begin to feel comfortable managing conflict.

Intentional Meeting Design

Leading collaboratively means gathering as a team frequently to put our heads together, brainstorm ideas, make decisions and connect with one another. Collaborative leaders therefore design a lot of meetings. Get the most out of your meetings by thinking carefully about how you design a meeting experience. See the Intentional Meeting Design Handbook we created for student leaders to help them design meetings that are intentional and enjoyable.