CIO upfront: The coalition government, the All Blacks and collective leadership

The collective leadership model involves all and that means that everyone is responsible for the team’s success and not just for their individual role.Sebastian Salicru, author, Leadership Results: How to Create Adaptive Leaders and High-performing Organisations for an Uncertain World

The national rugby team’s phenomenal success over the past 100 years is thanks to the team management’s strong collective leadership style, and its winning ethos is embodied in its organisational culture.

Remarkably, this was established when the first national team was formed in 1903 and has been nurtured, developed and sustained ever since.

This leading from ‘the back seat of the bus’ approach has helped to produce a winning culture that instilled a commitment to integrity, honesty, courage, team evaluation and reflection. The club transcends the realm of sport and embodies the unique spirit of one of the most resilient nations in the world.

This culture of high performance and collective leadership is readily transferable to New Zealand’s newly formed coalition government; Jacinda Ardern, Winston Peters and James Shaw are in a unique position to foster the All Blacks’ successful, collaborative model of leadership to get some scores on the board.

As a case study of collective leadership in the All Blacks showed, where leadership was not visible in key roles, such as coaching, another part of the All Black organisation, such as players, assumed leadership responsibility.

Alternatively, when there were player misdemeanours, the coach stood up and when hard decisions had to be made, the administrators/board made them. The bottom line was that in the All Blacks organisation, at any time, there was someone ready and willing to step up for the collective benefit of the club. Arguably, such findings can be transferable to other sports teams, businesses, and communal contexts in assisting their organisational development.

The collective leadership model involves all and that means that everyone is responsible for the team’s success and not just for their individual role.

This means leadership is distributed, rather than being centred on a few individuals in formal positions of authority. The broad distribution of responsibilities is naturally more inclusive, as it involves all participants, which makes collective leadership more effective than individual leadership.

This approach to leadership offers each individual voice a in the organisation. This, in turn, empowers people, who then feel more valued, trusted and heard. In this way, everyone’s interaction and effort at every level drives performance and shapes the culture of the organisation.

Collective leadership is relational rather than hierarchical. It enables everyone to be active in leadership roles as it flattens workplace structures. Giving people more responsibility also means allowing them to be more accountable, take risks, make mistakes and learn from them. This can allow individuals to be more empowered making them more committed, engaged, creative and innovative. In this context leaders become mentors, supporting each other to achieve an organisation’s collective goals and outcomes.

Years of traditional leadership have resulted in systems that value hierarchy, status, authority and control. The move to collective leadership requires change not only at a leadership and cultural level, but also at an individual level.

Followers who dare not depart from the leader’s ideas are not engaged in their own creative processes. Empowerment on the other hand, is about providing others with autonomy and independence.

This occurs when people feel valued for their experience, potential and contribution. Empowered individuals are motivated, believe in their ability to perform successfully and are also more creative.

Collective leadership is a relational, fluid and evolving approach where multiple (if not all) individuals assume leadership roles in a group or organisation in response to specific situations, settings or contexts. It means everyone takes responsibility for the success of the organisation as a whole. In turn, power needs to be distributed to where the right capabilities, expertise and passion exist.

Collective leadership, therefore, requires networking and collaboration across organisational boundaries. It draws on social capital and builds on the knowledge, skills and abilities of all and requires individuals to engage in high levels of communication and to work openly and interdependently to share ideas and have a joint vision and common goals.

When done successfully, collective leadership benefits everyone, allows for more innovation, allows organisations to adapt to change quickly, and delivers outstanding performance and results.

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Sebastian Salicru is a leadership development expert and author of Leadership Results: How to Create Adaptive Leaders and High-performing Organisations for an Uncertain World (Wiley, 2017). He is a thought leader and business psychologist based in Sydney who works globally. Reach him at

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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