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Leadership challenges in turbulent times
Leadership challenges in turbulent times

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3 Leadership as a positive-sum game

In order for leadership to be able to achieve a positive outcome for all the stakeholders involved (positive-sum game), the idea of ‘better together’ and the meaning of collaboration becomes central.

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Figure 9 Leadership as a game

The concept of collaboration is explored in many different fields. Disciplines such as economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science and management all focus on collaboration, but interpret the term differently and from different perspectives (i.e. corporate, institutional, social, economic, political etc). For instance, in biology, living organisms collaborating means maximising the long-term opportunities for their genes. In contrast, technological studies view collaboration in terms of collaborative software packages that facilitate action-oriented teams working together over geographic distances by providing tools which promote communication, cooperation and problem solving.

In music, collaboration may describe the participation of many people in one concert, album or performance. In research, collaboration can be defined as researchers working together to produce new scientific knowledge.

In organisational literature, ‘collaboration is treated as a broad concept in scope and, not surprisingly, even the most basic terminology – such as “partnership”, “alliance”, and “collaboration”– is subject to a wide variety of interpretations, and while many authors create specific definitions for their own purposes, there is no consistency of usage across the field’ (Huxham and Vangen, 2001, p. 1).

All these interpretations demonstrate that there is not one accepted definition of collaboration. Instead, as Christina S. Beck (2006, p. 200), an academic researcher, said ‘collaboration can mean everything from simply sharing information/opinion or ‘working together’ to striving to arrive at win/win outcomes of conflict, to a specific means of regarding relational partners in interaction’.

A more simple definition of collaboration given by the Oxford Dictionary, however, is: ‘collaboration is the act of working together with another person or group of people to create or produce something.’

It may be logical to assume that, to some degree, everyone wants to be collaborative and be able to work with other people, but sometimes this may be difficult. This is a skill that is not easily taught. In schools, teachers often assign group tasks, but students usually do not get guidance on how to work together and quite often a few members of the group do all of the work. Some people are naturals at collaborating, but others have to make an effort to leave their ego on the side and collaborate.