Golf Trips and Collaborative Leadership

Iceberg principle

Collaborative Leadership:

“the process of engaging collective intelligence to deliver results across organisational boundaries when ordinary mechanisms of control are absent”

Oxford Leadership – Collaborative Leadership White Paper, 2011

The other day a dear friend of mine, a top elite sports coach and voracious learner and networker around leadership and behaviour, sent me this white paper.

Within it are some powerful learnings for leading collaboratively, yet, as so often, I wonder why corporate leaders and their consultants need to speak in such overly complicated ways.

Today let me endeavour to use Oxford Leadership’s version of the iceberg principle (ie the image above, captured from their white paper), to make a few simple points for leaders to anchor upon if they choose to lead collaboratively.

I’ll distil this into a few key points and keywords

BELIEF that everyone has value to add

The opening paragraph of my home page says:

“Command-and-control leadership is losing its grip. A new way of thinking is emerging: leadership that embraces change as constant encourages individual thought, relies on intuition more than data, fluidity more than hierarchy, trust more than fear, and the common good more than profit.”

To capture a key piece from this, collaborative leaders modelling #OpenLeadership come from a starting point, a strong belief that EVERYONE has value to add.

This starts with a belief from those with authority that this is true, so behaviours are key, and all too often how leaders behave reflects quite the opposite.

An example, then I’ll focus on anchor values to live rather than espouse if you truly wish to be a collaborative leader.

Golf Trips – People follow what you do, not what you say.

This month once again we saw International Women’s Day celebrated.

Within two weeks, though, I saw an image of a large group of financial services professionals at a golf championship, celebrating the excitement. They had clearly gone there with a business purpose of connecting together across networks, firms, businesses with a view to building relationships.

Do you know what I noticed above all though? Every single one of them was a white male. Every one. Now, at least some of them work for global organisations that made positive statements about gender discrimination on IWD, yet here we are, they then send all “the boys” on a “golf trip”. It is almost as if the senior leadership one day says: “Well, I guess we should say something about equality on IWD, so let’s have HR handle that. Meanwhile, who is coming on the golf trip, lads?”

People follow what you do, not what you say.

Now, using the Oxford version of the iceberg model above, it talks about the visible being such things as Visions, Goals, Strategies, Espoused Values.

Keyword here? Espoused. Values have to be lived every day, not simply words on a website or in frames on a wall in the office (yet how often have you witnessed only the latter?).

People follow what you do, not what you say.


So, let’s now look below the line on that model, words there such as Fears, Beliefs, Prejudices, Habits, Taboos.

So, I just called out a bunch of senior financial services professionals and their organisations for running yet another golf trip. Some of these are past or present clients, so perhaps publishing this may cost me client work in future. Hmm, that creates a small fear in me, yet the larger driver for me is living my values, one of them is the value of “fair”, hence diversity and equality is a really powerful focus for me in work and life.

So, if leaders keep allowing things to be the way they’ve always been, keep saying “we’ve always done it this way”. keep behaving in a way that shuts down alternative views from within and across their organisation, you won’t get collaborative leadership, no matter how much you espouse it.

On the other hand, if you choose to recognise that “command and control leadership is losing its grip”, you may be brave enough to follow the advice I give in the opening paragraph of my website and, among other choices, “encourage individual thought” by not only your words, but your behaviours.

Bravery is therefore key when choosing to be a collaborative leader in a world where command and control leadership, despite many espousing the opposite, still is very much entrenched in much of the business world.

{Aside – Collaborative Leadership is MORE profitable}

Oh, and in this, I believe in business as a force for good and have seen, again and again, that businesses that focus on what I have called “the new triple bottom line” actually make a difference and make MORE profit, so evidence is there that being brave enough to be a collaborative leader is a “Both, And” (link to recent post of that name) choice.

I also note the concise brand statement for Oxford Leadership is “Transforming Business for Good”. Bravo.

Hungry, Humble, Open

So, the starting point in being a collaborative leader is Belief that everyone has value to add, not just those in authority.

We then recognise with the Golf Trip analogy how difficult some find it to behave in this way rather than simply espouse it, then talk about how it takes Bravery to lead collaboratively.

I’ll wrap up this particular post by simply highlighting three values that, if you behave this way, if you live these values rather than simply espouse them, you will show up as my definition of a leader (and a collaborative one), and that definition is: “A Leader is someone others choose to follow“. These three values I talk about in more detail on the #BeMoreYou page on this site, and they are :

  • Hungry
  • Humble
  • Open

I’m always really pleased to engage in conversation with anyone around this topic, one I broadly call #OpenLeadership, this is my work and I love to listen, learn, share, exchange. Email me anytime to set up a chat!

How to be Brave, Hungry, Humble, Open?

The last piece for today. To me, the core of this, the piece way deep under the waterline of the iceberg, is “Self-Leadership”. Though many are quite eclectic, the hundreds of posts on this site are all around the topic of leadership, with the reason for the oft eclectic nature being to support us all in understanding ourselves. Leadership starts with self-leadership. Oh, and I am happy to see that Oxford Leadership, in their white paper, does very much highlight this.

We are all on a lifelong journey of learning, sometimes the bravest part is learning about ourselves. How much do you wish to commit to learning about yourself? Perhaps another commercial link for you from my experience may encourage you. In my experience the leaders who are both brave and highly successful in the impact they have, those leaders are the ones most deeply committed to investing in and learning about themselves so they can better serve, including being a collaborative leader. I’m so happy that I get to work with such leaders as their sounding board every day!

Also published on Medium.