How does real change
happen? In the civic arena, how do leaders really make a difference?
voter turnout at record low levels across North America, with
apathy and frustration with all levels of government the norm,
David Chrislip offers a way forward. David, the co-author
of Collaborative Leadership, has spent the past 30
years helping people enhance their leadership capacities and
create visions and strategies for their organizations and
communities by working together. The broader purpose of his
work is to build civil society.
Traditional models of leadership simply do
not work in our increasingly diverse and complex society.
Collaboration is a positive way to make conscious, inclusive
decisions on community issues. Collaboration is the new leadership.
D. Chrislip is Principal of Skillful Means. He has
spent the past 30 years helping people enhance their leadership
capacities and create visions and strategies for their organizations
and communities by working together. The broader purpose of
his work is to build civil society. His work focuses on three
areas: civic leadership development, collaboratively addressing
complex community issues, and organizational strategy and
development. His roles include research, writing, process
design, capacity building, leadership coaching and consulting,
He has served as a Senior Associate of the
National Civic League and as Vice President of Research and
Development for American Leadership Forum. He is the co-founder
of the Denver Community Leadership Forum. He has taught graduate
courses in leadership and ethics at the University of Denver
and at the University of Colorado at Denver. For 20 years,
he was a senior Course Director with the Colorado Outward
Bound School and the National Outdoor Leadership School. Previously
he served in financial management positions with The Boeing
An experienced seminar leader and consultant, David has worked
with many communities and organizations, both nationally and
internationally, and has conducted leadership development
programs for several thousand students, managers and community
leaders. He has written a number of published articles on
politics, civic engagement, and civil society and is the co-author,
with Carl Larson, of Collaborative Leadership: How Citizens
and Civic Leaders Can Make a Difference (San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, 1994) and author of The Collaborative Leadership
Fieldbook: A Guide for Citizens and Civic Leaders (San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002).
David received his B.A. degree (1966) from Oklahoma State
University in economics and history, an M.S. degree (1970)
from Wichita State University in economics, and an M.P.A.
degree (1982) from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School
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The Collaborative Premise
The collaborative premise says: If you bring
the appropriate people together in constructive ways with
good information, they will create authentic visions and strategies
for addressing the shared concerns of the organization and
Each component of the premise is important:
- You must bring the appropriate people together –
the collaboration must be broadly inclusive
- You must bring people together in constructive ways
– design the process so that it can deal with different
understandings of the issues, varying degrees of trust,
and so that the process encourages people to work together
- Good information is critical to good decision-making
– Involve experts in the process as informers, rather
than drivers of the process.
Why do we need collaborative leadership?
Our traditional models of leadership do not
serve us well, especially in our increasingly diverse and
complex society. Our default position is often to simply avoid
making a conscious decision. We choose to focus on a solution
rather than a process that brings us to a solution. We can
make conscious, inclusive decisions on a community issue –
collaboration is a positive way to do this.
The pervasive concept of leadership is that
of the heroic leader – they have a vision, they assert
it, they persuade us, and they gain followers. Collaborative
leadership turns that concept upside down simply by saying
that if we bring good people together in constructive ways,
we will be able to push forward. We need to remember that
how we decide is as important as what we decide. The quality
of engagement reflects the quality of our decisions, and ultimately,
the quality of our outcomes.
Successful collaborations produce results
- Tangible and substantial responses
to presenting issues
- Systemic, not just symptomatic or
reactive – reach a deeper understanding of the real
- Sustainable, because collaboration
gets to the heart of the matter. When collaboration works,
it builds social capital that helps us to prepare to deal
with future issues in constructive ways.
The four critical aspects to collaboration
- A focus for collaboration – frame the issue in
such a way so that there is something to collaborate about.
- Inclusivity – collaborations that work tend to
err on the involvement of too many people, not too few.
Be sure your stakeholder group includes the usual and
unusual voices, and reflects the broader community.
- A constructive process to deal with the diversity of
people involved – a good collaborative process increases
shared understanding of the issue.
- Presence of strong facilitative leaders within the
stakeholder group – leaders focus on process, convening,
catalyzing, and sustaining the process. They are not advocates
These are 10 key elements found in all successful
community collaborations. They include:
- Good timing and clear need.
- Strong stakeholder groups.
- Broad-based involvement.
- Credibility and openness of process.
- Commitment and/or involvement of high-level, visible
- Support or acquiescence of "established" authorities
- Ability to overcome mistrust and skepticism.
- Strong leadership of the process.
- Interim successes.
- A shift to broader concerns.
It is important to remember that collaboration
is more than a tool in a toolbag. When collaboration works,
it reproduces and build the characteristics of civic community,
allowing us to deal with future issues in constructive ways.
Collaboration builds social capital. Collaboration is the
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New Civic Leadership – In this article,
David writes that we need a new form of leadership for
the civic arena. This leadership must come from new and
diverse sources, and its practice must take a radically
different form. Read more here!
& Leaderful Communities – Check
out this page on leaders, leadership and leaderful communities.
Watch video clips on the Leadership Challenge and read
some of Paul’s work on leadership here.
here for more resources on Collaboration!
Resources mentioned during the seminar:
Links to Amazon.ca for more on the following books: