Our marketplace is volatile and constantly changing.

The speed and complexity of changes that affect our businesses is only increasing. To lead our organizations in this environment requires a leadership culture that rests on solid ground, fully engages the workforce and their creativity, and can adapt and adjust to the many twists and turns of the market.

Over the last 20 years, we have learned that:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you get your culture right, the rest will follow.

The need to collaborate across the boundaries of our organization, across departments, cultures, and countries is becoming more and more important, no matter what the size of the business.

The most effective leadership culture that can achieve these goals is one that is collaborative and interdependent.

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The central tenets of a collaborative leadership culture are trust and ownership.

That shared ownership of the culture by leadership is essential for creating trust.

Finally we know that that while leaders want to collaborate more effectively to build trust, they often don’t know “how.”

The “how” involves what I call “Collaborative Governance.” Collaborative governance means that all leaders in a leadership team, for example, are playing by the same rules. It means they have chosen to live by the same principles, vision, and mission. More importantly, collaborative governance means every leader owns, is fully responsible for, and will be held accountable for the new ways of working together. Ownership means every leader signs up to the governance process 100 percent, no reservations. Using this standard, the leadership culture begins to evolve from a culture of independent experts, to a culture of interdependent collaborators. Once leadership establishes the framework and operating processes for this collaborative operating system, it is then brought to the rest of the organization.

There are four core elements of Collaborative Governance that are agreed to:

Core Element 1: Operating Agreements — these are the rules of engagement leadership agrees to that govern how they will work with each other, e.g. decision-making, conflict resolution, and communications.

Core Element 2: Team Charter — this document identifies the key stakeholders for leadership, what those stakeholders believe leadership’s mission is, and the critical success factors for achieving that mission.

Core Element 3: Communications Plan — this document spells out the specific communications requirements for each stakeholder, and assigns leadership responsibility for ensuring effective communications.

Core Element 4: Action Plan — this document spells out the responsibilities for leadership for achieving the specific goals of the organization within a given time frame.

The key to succeeding in today’s volatile market is having a more collaborative culture built on the principle of trust. Collaborative Governance is the operating system for that culture, the “how to” that builds ownership and alignment across leadership and the organization. And as a result, leadership then creates a workplace culture fit for the human spirit, and with that, anything can be achieved.

Dr. Edward Marshall is a Senior Partner for Organizational Leadership at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC. He can be reached at marshalle@ccl.org, or 919.265.9616.