The ROI of Collaborative Leadership

As an executive leadership coach with more than 20 years of experience working in organizations across the globe, I can emphatically say that collaborative leadership development is the most effective ingredient of work that translates directly into bottom-line dollars.

There is a direct and consistent correlation between organizational cultures that are highly collaborative and those that are strong when it comes to leadership and their bottom line.

Collaboration among team members creates a culture in which the individuals see themselves as integral parts of the whole, rather than separate from those they work with and for. This strong sense of belonging and contribution causes team cohesion and collaboration as a habit. As such, the individuals become highly proficient at it, and produce bigger and bigger results without commensurate increases in effort. Collaboration increases effectiveness at the individual and team levels without the individual having to simply work harder and longer. A by-product of this is that the individuals’ sense of satisfaction improves, their production increases, their voice is heard more often in the group, and they relate to themselves and to each other as leaders in their respective roles.

In this culture, leadership is sourced from the individual as leader, rather than from a single leader over a group of followers. As a consequence, the sense of ownership and investment at every level is high, and the collaboration tends to be more effective and produce results at ever-increasing levels. These collaborators end up building relationships with each other (and with the firm) based on their individual and collective leadership, rather than their complaints and perceived victimization by the firm. This not only creates better results for the team and the firm, but leads the individuals producing those results to want to stay in the organization.

Given the extremely high cost of attrition and lateral hires, reducing attrition and increasing successful lateral integration would be a major contributor to a firm’s bottom line. Retention of effective team players, who see themselves as leaders in their roles, is one of the most solid investments a firm can make in their future. It has partners more fully invested in the firm, encourages cross-selling, and increases the likelihood that the partners will agree with and genuinely support strategic initiatives. It also has firms relate to their associates as assets rather than commodities; to be nurtured and grown along with the firm and integral to its future success.

Everyone Wins

A by-product of this collaborative leadership is an organizational culture of trust, and the resulting willingness to take risks, both as a firm and as an individual. This adds to the ability of team cohesion and collaboration to add directly to the bottom line, as clients are better serviced, innovation becomes the norm, and best practices are regularly tested and reinvented. The organization and the people who lead it all benefit from that inherent growth, abundance, and focus on financial longevity and the evolution of the firm. The message to everyone is clear: If the firm wins, I win.”  This is an environment in which everyone thrives. Stability in an intentionally evolving organization, compulsive innovation, dynamic creativity, and satisfaction in their careers means that everyone wins, including the individual, the firm, and the bottom line.

All this leads to a group of highly motivated individuals working together, and highly motivated individuals will be open to innovation. The legal world is changing and those firms that are embracing the new environment and expectations are the ones which will continue to thrive. Personal ownership and investment creates results. In fact, it creates new, bigger results consistently over time. A team of collaborators playing at that level creates both a more enjoyable work environment and more wealth for the individual lawyers and the firm as a whole.

Collaboration Is a Practice

Habits are not created overnight. Neither are cultures. That’s why most habits and cultures never change. Collaborative leadership is a culture that is intentionally installed most effectively at the individual level. When I start working with an organization to shift its culture, we always start with the individual team members. We start a “movement” at that level; a movement of ownership, collaboration, leadership, inclusion and innovation. As with any great change like this, it requires a relentless commitment to practice.

Practicing this type of contextual shift generates a daily awareness of your relationship to yourself as a leader, of your teammates’ success being essential to your success, of yourself as an owner and direct contributor to the firm, and of the firm as your full partner in it all.

If it were “easy,” everyone and every firm would do it. The successful ones are more committed to their financial success and that of their team members than they are to it being “easy.”

About the Author

Mark Hunter is a professional certified coach and the president and founder of Pinnacle Coaching, Inc. He can be reached at 410.342.4994 or

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