By Lucy Freedman
A simple reflection
answers that question: when you hear the term collaborative
leadership, do you put yourself in the shoes of the collaborative
leader? Or do you read it as something that those people
in leadership should adopt?
Your answer is the
benchmark of the need for an essential evolutionary step. When
everyone is aware of being a leader, assuming responsibility for
communicating effectively, we'll have evolved to reach the potential
of what collaboration can be.
Our flowing information
economy replaces hierarchy with networks. "Personal power"
exists in a new context. If you are reading this newsletter, you
may be one of what demographers call "cultural creatives."
That means that you are questioning old assumptions, seeking to
improve society, and designing a lifestyle that is mobile, information-rich,
and rather untraditional. You are likely to hold the ideal of
workplace collaboration more consciously than many.
Whether or not this description fits you, recent events have shown
us serious consequences of breakdowns in mutual understanding
In a world where we
need to act in concert, not to destroy but to enhance life,
there is plenty
for all of us to do just to bring forth sustainable human and
The self-indulgent 80's, and I don't know what to call the 90's
yet, are over. It's time to apply what we've learned, and to extend
our learning well beyond where we've been.
Meg Wheatley wrote a stunning article, "Bringing Life to
Organizational Change" that you can access on the web at
where she points out that participation by each member of an organization
is the only thing that keeps both alive.
She says that you can
only learn to thrive by using principles, not rules or formulas.
Each person, each member has a unique role and perspective which
is essential to the whole. As Meg reminds us, no one actually
carries out instructions as someone else gives them anyway. We
each add our bit, and even though people who run organizations
may be frustrated by this, the result is demonstrably better when
the right people have input to how things are done. Chaotic systems
have always been the norm even when we have pretended, in our
Newtonian consciousness, that we can impose linear plans on living
is an expression that describes active involvement in the new
pattern of organization. It brings with it a call for the skills
and capacities to bridge differences and take action. How many
of us, and people with whom we work, recognize that we need practice
in personal / interpersonal skills, and that we need to do this
The attitudes and skills of Collaborative Leadership are the underlying
behavioral structure represented by Syntax. Whatever your `personality
style' or `learning style' or perceptual bias, you are always
called upon to PLAN, LINK, BALANCE, INFORM, and LEARN. The additional
leverage of having a common language for collaborating is enormous.
Syntax helps weave mutual understanding into the fabric of organizational
One of the most enlightening moments in our many years of Advanced
Learning Institutes came when Chris Thorsen, an Aikido master
and consultant, taught us the concepts of WAZA and DO. Practicing
techniques, following instructions, learning a discipline these
are in the world of WAZA.
The incredible experience of flow that comes in the pursuit of
mastery, the in-the-moment heightened presence that cannot be
summoned on demand of our conscious minds, is referred to as the
DO (pronounced "doe"). We know that the conscious practice
of Syntax is in the world of WAZA, and the intent of practice
is to be available for the experience of the DO.
Personal responsibility, or Collaborative Leadership, is more
than just an attitude. It's willingness combined with capabilities.
Syntax was developed so that you can equip yourself efficiently,
simply, and with lots of real-world practice to be a learner of
collaborative leadership, someone who doesn't wait for others
to "get it" or to change, but who says, "What do
we want? What will that get us and others? How will we know when
we get there?"
Thank you for being one of those people. We are grateful for the
many opportunities we have to pass the message along. When you
are ready to work consciously on these principles, to engage in
the WAZA, and to share them with others, we invite you to join
us in a learning partnership. Meanwhile, know that you have like-minded
allies over here!