The landscape of current markets has changed considerably. Globalization forced business organizations to cast their eyes beyond the national borders in order to protect their local markets by fighting competitors, which may later invade their current markets, offshore. As competition moves offshore, value chain are setup for self-fragmentation due to outsourcing and collaborative associations; knowledge became increasingly indispensable; heightened demands for better products and services; to name but a few (De Meyer, 2011). Consequently, participative leadership no longer meets the demand of global leadership. A more expansive style of leadership is necessary. Collaborative leadership fits the bill.
This essay will provide a brief discussion of the theoretical foundation and useful models, both inspiring and practically accessible for self-development and application both in life and in organization. I will then capsulize my personal philosophy of collaborative philosophy.
Inspirations from The Godfather
In first installment of The Godfather trilogy, Don Michael Corleone told his colleagues during a private meeting, “Things are negotiated that’ll solve your problems and answer your questions” (Puzo, M. & Coppola, F.F., 1972). The essence of collaborative leadership is negotiated course of action for common benefits. It facilitates collaboration like stewardship by convening collaboration (Ansell & Gash, 2012). The Corleone family conducted business not in the isolation of their board room but in co-operation with other business families in their close-knit network of largely Italian families engaged in related businesses in various levels and functions. The unifying thread in the family is personal honor and indebtedness to the Godfather who in times of crises in these families had extended enormous effort to resolve them and establish a tie that can be broken only by blood and death; thus, facilitating collaboration like mediators by managing conflict and mediating exchange (Ansell & Gash, 2012). Collaborative leadership ensures that each member of the organization are taken cared for, more so during their direst of needs, and each member are expected to perform the same care to the rest of the members.
I can only be impressed on the strong loyalty among each members of the Godfather’s organization. The leadership style relies on the personal service of the leader to his members in ensuring that they grow in the business or in the organization. He also meddles around conflicts between members in the organization in order to resolve inevitable areas of conflict.
Michael Corleone told Joe Zasa, “Your business is your business.”
“The Commission gave it to me and you approved it,” Zasa replied.
“My interests don’t conflict with Mr. Joe Zasa,” Corleone assured. “No conflicts; no debts. I wish you well” (Puzo, M. & Coppola, F.F., 1990).
Gunning up towards collaborative leadership style
Arnoud De Meyer (2011) identified four skills that collaborative leaders need to develop: listening, adaptation, influencing, and collaboration. Listening allows the collaborative leader to detect weak signals from the forces operating in the network; thus, anticipating changes that at the beginning of its development. The Godfather III opened with Don Vito Corleone exercising his superior listening skills to a fellow Italian in distress. Furthermore, when offered a share of the drug business in New York, Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather understood the negative impact of drug distribution to the family’s political network, most of which would be expected to distance from the family when it starts dealing with drugs. So he decided to stay away from it amidst the protest of his son and his adviser.
The skill to adapt to unexpected changes in the environment is necessary. Only through effective adapting can the collaborative leader successful navigating the increasingly uncertain and risky business environment. In The Godfather II, young Vito Corleone watched his mother murdered by the mafia in Sicily and he had to flee to the United States in order to save his life (Coppola & Puzo, 1974). When Michael Corleone took over the mafia organization in The Godfather III after his father Vito retired due to ill health, he decided to reorganize the organization into a wartime mode before the enemies saw what was coming to the point of transferring his father’s trusted adviser into a plain legal counsel in preparation for its entry into Las Vegas (Puzo & Coppola, 1990).
Influencing is an offshoot of listening and adaptability. Listening opens up entry points to influence others; while adaptability provides the needed mental and sociopolitical flexibility to adapt strategies to the vulnerabilities of others. The influential power of Vito and Michael Corleone ensures a tight ship within the family and a respectful attitude from other collaborative and competing organizations.
Collaboration is the ultimate skill to acquire after the mastery of influencing. It puts into action the achievements of influencing, into a signed mutually beneficial deal or concerted action. The Godfather trilogy illustrates some cases wherein Vito and Michael Corleone established collaboration with other organizations. In The Godfather I, Vito Corleone had already established collaborative arrangements with other mafia organizations operation in different states in the United States. They protect each other in their respective territories and wage war against their mutual enemies. In The Godfather II, Michael tapped the collaboration of Hyman Roth, an influential Jewish family in Miami, when he planned to move for a casino there. I can practice developing this skill by initiating collaborative projects and seeing it through to completion. I can start with a group of students, of employees, or of community workers to work on commonly meaningful ventures. In The Godfather III, Michael concluded his family’s collaboration with the American mafias after he made them large monies in his casinos and moved his collaborative efforts with legitimate corporations, such as the Vatican Bank through the Vito Corleone Foundation.
Defining my personal collaborative philosophy
My personal collaborative philosophy goes like this: “Win others by helping them win their battles.” This philosophy encapsulates the lessons I learned from the movie trilogy, The Godfather, as well as Ansell and Gash (Stewards-Mediators-Catalysts) model of collaborative leadership. My leadership facilitates the convening of collaborators into an integral unit, arbitrate stakeholder exchanges, manage conflict, and identify and realize opportunities for mutual value creation (Ansell & Gash, 2012). This role can only be achieved by developing competence, which may be developed by working on the four appropriate skills that Arnoud De Meyer mentioned (2011).
I can develop my listening skills by encouraging others to talk instead of me insisting to do the talking. The more I listen, the more I get to hear what others can say. I need only to speak when I need to do so, not to show off what I know. Conversely, developing the adaptability skill would demand from me to overhaul my hesitations and reservations before a changing landscape. That means I take courageously all opportunities that would allow me to move beyond my comfort zone and into a more heart-pounding and risky world. Furthermore, while listening and adaptability generally entails waiting for opportunities, influencing demands that I go out of my current environment and pursue collaborative projects outside my world or my organization, moving so that those others will follow to their personal or organizational benefits.
The developing the skills of collaborative leadership principally demands a radical change in paradigm. It does not demand grand designs for self-development. It does demand that I welcome all opportunities to exercise these skills into its maximum level as they come. Any student of collaborative leadership can draw inspirational strength from exemplary skills exhibited by two Corleone dons in The Godfather movie trilogy. The bottom line in the pursuit of collaborative leadership is an important paradigm shift for a participative leader and a stepping out from the confines of the headquarters and into the new and diverse challenges around the world.
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Puzo, M. & Coppola, F.F. (1990). The Godfather III. Los Angeles, CA: Paramount Pictures.