Collaboration can easily be underdone. It can also be overdone. I know I am a well-intentioned collaborative leader who is guilty of doing both.

From a CEO's perspective and their needs to be collaborative, let’s frame types of collaboration in which we must regularly engage in as:

  • Directing/Sharing – I offer a piece of the work that needs accomplishing to you.
  • Sharing/Sharing – We co-lead a project, shifting roles as needed based on what is coming next and playing off each other’s strengths.
  • Sharing/Directing –I place myself under your leadership, which means divesting some authority in the project because it makes for a better result.

Using this framework, we may be most familiar with collaboration being underdone.

  • Directing/Sharing - I offer a piece of the work needing to be accomplished, but I do not release control even though I say I have.
  • Sharing/Sharing - We pretend to co-lead a project, but we are actually working in silos, competing for resources, attention, recognition, etc.
  • Sharing/Directing - I place myself under your leadership but am not honest about how that makes me feel; I become passive-aggressive, undermining your leadership. Sometimes this is not a conscious process.

And believe it or not, collaboration can be overdone and problematic. Overdone collaboration actually makes collaboration disappear.

  • Directing/Sharing – I’m too diplomatic or cryptic, and am therefore unclear. I end up abdicating my part of the collaboration.
  • Sharing/Sharing – We alternate, caring more about taking turns and tracking our individual contributions than fusing something together and benefitting from efficiencies. The joy of the common work disappears.
  • Sharing/Directing – I abdicate my best self, my best use of talent, my contribution, trying to look collaborative as I do so. You end up shouldering the load and I expect to share the credit.

As always, as much as I want others to collaborate better with me, good collaboration appears to begin with me – conscious of what I am doing, making life and work easier for others.


Mark L. Vincent (PhD, CCNL) is the Director of the Convene Consulting Network. He is also the CEO of Design Group International, an organizational development company providing wise guidance for enterprise, nonprofits, and ministry organizations. His passion is to love leaders as they claim their life vocation as stewards of enterprise.