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Why collaborative leadership?*

We’re looking forward to spending two days with you in March to develop understanding and practice in collaborative leadership across the Active Partnerships.. To give you a taster of what’s to come (without bombarding you with lots of reading!), below we’ve pulled out a few headlines, along with some suggestions for further reading.

Why collaborative leadership?

Why are we talking about collaborative leadership? Why is it an integral part of the primary role and focus of the Quest Assessments? Why is it the theme for the convention?

The issues we work to tackle, the systems we operate in, and people (including all of us) are complex! Just think about the range of interests, motivations and fears you’ve encountered that impact on people’s levels of physical activity. And the varied factors that can help get people more active, from the influence of peers through to changes to urban design and transport infrastructure.

Whether you’re seeking to tackle knife crime, end homelessness or increase physical activity, no single intervention or organisation – no matter how well-run – can achieve real and lasting change by acting alone. To make progress requires working across organisational boundaries with many other actors.

This might sound simple, but developing the thinking, culture and practice of collaboration requires some fundamental shifts in mindsets, behaviours, relationships and skills. A shift from delivering standardised services to flexible personalised support, from ‘proving our impact’ as organisations to learning and improving as a system, from hierarchical to distributed leadership… and so on.

…This means we all play a crucial role as leaders. Every one of us can influence how a system operates by using our skills, relationships, connections, and the resources at our disposal to uncover opportunities and tackle blockers that have the potential to help people become more physically active. Those of us who work directly with communities are the ones who can develop collaboration on the ground, and those of us who occupy traditional leadership roles can help enable more of this to happen, for example through giving permission, modelling collaborative behaviours and celebrating new ways of working.

What is collaborative leadership and how do we do it?

As you’ve been examining through the Quest Assessment process, collaborative leadership in a CSP context is defined as:

“Operating across organisational boundaries to deliver shared results optimising use of resources, assets and skills to help develop a framework for sustained change locally.”

To delve a bit deeper into what this means for us as collaborative leaders:

  1. It’s personal: it’s our personal purpose that gives us the resilience and energy to lead change within complex systems. Recognising what motivates us as individuals and finding ways to act on this as part of our work is a key foundation for collaborating authentically and effectively with others.
  2. It’s enabling and facilitative: in a context where there are few easy answers, we are all responsible for helping create the conditions to effectively work towards tackling challenges together. Facilitating connections, sharing skills and developing collective knowledge is all part of our ‘work’ as collaborative leaders.
  3. It’s about building relationships and trust: relationships are what helps drive change in complex environments, and genuine collaboration starts from a place of trust (rather than formal agreements). Focusing on how we behave as well as what we do is crucial.
  4. It’s about developing shared purpose: working collaboratively requires uncovering and articulating the shared purpose everyone is working towards. It’s not about losing your organisation’s purpose and identity, but about viewing your role in the context of the contribution you can make to the wider picture.
  5. It’s about delivering shared results: collaborative leadership involves delivering meaningful change. Working to address complex issues, you won’t always get it right. As a leader your role is to be accountable for continuously learning and adapting alongside partners to improve what you do and in turn improve outcomes for the people you support.

So… what are we doing on 11 and 12 March?

The convention will be different in focus and approach than in previous years—in the specific emphasis on collaborative leadership, and its participatory approach.

The convention will be an opportunity to:

  • Develop your understanding of collaborative leadership through keynote speeches which explore practical examples of collaborative leadership and people’s personal journeys
  • Opportunities to learn with and from peers about collaborative leadership journeys, as individuals and CSPs
  • Bring your learning and insights together as a CSP to develop a collaborative leadership vision for the next 12 months (including some ‘Dragon’s Den’ style challenge from other CSPs!)
  • Learn about and practice techniques such as reflective practice and appreciative inquiry
  • Hear Sport England Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth’s personal reflections on collaborative leadership

It will be a busy two days and we ask that you approach the convention with lots of energy and honesty to get as much out of it as you can!

In preparation for the convention please think about the following questions which you’ll explore at the start:

  • An example of what you feel is collaborative leadership in action (it could be you, your CSP, or more generally)
  • One key thing you’d like to learn over the two days

*Also known as systems leadership or collective leadership

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