I am preparing to write a new book on Collaboration. In my reading around the issue I am coming across an uneasy tension between collaborative ideals and highly non-collaborative practices working alongside one another.
Indeed as I read Warren Bennis’s Organizing Genius I am concerned that the collaborative ways need non-collaborative frameworks to operate.
I am talking about Walt Disney who Bennis holds up as running a highly collaborative collective within his world famous studios.
Disney is criticised for being something of a tyrant. He would not always be the best at sharing credit for work, would bark at staff and paid poorly – Bennis reports that salaries doubled overnight once Dreamworks and other animation studios started poaching staff.
And yet for all of this non-collaborative, tyrannical, even abusive conduct, Bennis claims collaborative efforts emerged which changed the world of entertainment.
We might also think about Steve Jobs and his own positioning as central figurehead, perhaps Alex Ferguson in sport terms and others in diverse sectors (any ideas? Please do share them in comments)
Bennis suggests that sometimes individuals are required to position themselves as gatekeepers essentially protecting the collaborative team behind from conventional pressures and criticism.
There might be something in this. The leader drawing the fire leaving the team to get on with their stuff without interference.
The problem is that in the Disney case, Bennis suggests that this role was taken up by Walt’s brother Roy. So what was Walt’s excuse?
There may also be something about having a central
identity that that collaborative team members can subscribe their own efforts and egos to.
And does this suggest that a truly collaborative model is neither possible nor desirable?
What is the challenge for collaborative leadership?