Many leaders struggle with working in collaboration with their teams. Whether it is designing something complex like an organizational change or something simple like helping their team brainstorm a solution, many leaders struggle to participate in the discussion while keeping their teams involved and engaged.
Co-creative leadership is a new leadership style that can help with this problem. To become co-creative leaders, there are five key skills leaders must master.
1. They are a voice among many in the conversation.
Co-creative leaders help their teams focus on the problem and can be an active participant in building the solution with them. When they speak, the people around them listen and feel completely free to challenge or even reject their ideas. Co-creative leaders can also listen to the opinions of people on their teams, recognize good ideas and even build upon them to reach the best solution for the problem at hand.
Because collaboration with their teams comes naturally to them, they do not need to rely on their authority over people to get things done. Instead, they know how to delegate the right level of authority to their teams to empower them to deliver results.
By being a voice among many, co-creative leaders are no longer in the situation where they need to be the person who speaks last because everyone is on board with their ideas—good or not.
2. They create and unleash leaders around them.
Co-creative leaders know how to unleash the leadership skills of the people who surround them. For them, titles do not matter, and there can be multiple leaders in the room without being a threat to their own leadership.
They have the ability to recognize the dormant leaders in their teams—the disengaged people with untapped leadership potential—and find ways to put them in situations that help them grow and develop into the leaders they can be.
Co-creative leaders have a strong belief that one of a leader’s responsibilities is to create and unleash the leaders around them. By doing so, they are no longer alone as change agents in their organizations, and they are giving people space to grow into their full potential.
3. They build capacity on their teams.
Co-creative leaders understand that they need to help team members build new skills in order to build a high-performing team or organization. They know that building capacity in people is a lot like lifting weights: When you start exercising, the weights may seem very heavy and difficult to lift, but the more you work out, the more weight you can lift.
When developing new skills in the workplace, the same principle applies. You will not learn to have better discussions as a team until you begin talking about the things you have not dared to talk about now. You will not learn to collaborate better as a team unless you create opportunities and common projects to practice collaborating together.
Co-creative leaders can see and understand this learning process, and they create safety by making others aware of it as well. By building capacity on their teams, they are developing their people, increasing their teams’ maturity levels and creating sustainable change in their organizations.
4. They dance with the system around them.
Co-creative leaders do not manage people; they manage the system that surrounds them. They understand that a team (as well as an organization) is a complex adaptive system that responds and reacts to what is happening around it. They can see that system, and they dance with it by injecting and provoking conversations or by placing boundaries that steer the system toward delivering valuable results.
Understanding the system allows leaders to become more aware of what may be impacting the system and how the system may be impacting the team. They are able to recognize how they are personally affecting the system with their behaviors or their actions, which allows them to learn and adapt.
By dancing with the system, co-creative leaders learn to see their organization from a different perspective and work on the things that matter, when they matter. They also learn to lead change in a more fluid and dynamic way.
5. They encourage their teams to learn by doing.
Co-creative leaders know that the best way to learn is by doing small experiments and learning from them instead of talking about something for days, weeks or even months without trying out any new skills.
They understand that the team will learn best with a concrete experiment allowing them to make better decisions instead of being paralyzed by trying to find the perfect solution up front. By encouraging teams to learn by doing, co-creative leaders enable their organizations to move away from analysis paralysis and learn while doing something useful.
Co-creative leadership is not just a set of things to do. It’s a mindset that leaders need to adopt in order to empower the people they work with. This style of leadership engages employees in a way that allows them to step up and take ownership of their work. Becoming a co-creative leader also means becoming a more conscious and intentional leader who can be authentic and vulnerable with their teams.
As a trainer or leadership coach, which of these skills will you focus on developing with your clients in the coming months to allow them to become a more co-creative leader?
Steffan Surdek is an in-demand leadership development coach, corporate trainer, professional speaker and author at Pyxis Technologies. You can learn more about Steffan by visiting his website or following him on Twitter.