The Collaborative Leadership of Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren

On January 20th U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and incumbent Scott Brown signed a pledge intending to stop all PAC (Political Action Committee) spending on their campaigns. The pledge states that for every dollar a PAC spends on TV or Internet advertisement for them or against their opponent they will donate half that amount of money to a charity of the opponent’s choice.

I find this agreement a breath of fresh air, setting an example of political bipartisan leadership as well as collaborative leadership. This model should serve as an example for all politicians to follow. Collaboration is about building something together. It is about remaining open to new possibilities.

Collaborative leadership is both unifying and fluid. Think of an evolving organism, one that is highly dynamic as it adapts and wends its way toward its ever-changing goals. While this may seem amorphous, or even wishy-washy, it is the nature of the universe. Physicists speak of the dance when describing particle physics. Leadership and the nature of organizations is exactly the same.

Conversely, hardened positions such as signing a pledge for no new taxes (a la Taxpayer Protection Pledge) takes flexibility and adaptability off the table. Charles Darwin explained all too well for us what happens to species that are no longer able to adapt. Hardened ideological positions are fine for religions but are no way to stay ahead of the curve, whether leading a nation or a private organization.

It is difficult to lead collaboratively. It requires time, patience, and skill. All parties must be committed to the goal of creating something new and building trust. They must be willing to enter a meaningful dialog to come to an understanding of each other’s values and goals so that this new creation may emerge. Begin by building on small achievements together.

So ask yourself how well you’re working with other leaders and other teams…


• What behaviors do you exhibit which build trust?
• How do you engage others in meaningful dialog?
• How do you get peers to buy into your vision and goals?
• What process do you use to understand everyone’s values, beliefs, and goals?
• What process do you use to build a common vision?
• How do you build upon early accomplishments?
• Are you willing to invest the time to lead collaboratively?
• Are you willing to invest the time and energy to upgrade your leadership skills if necessary?

Keywords: collaborative leadership, trust, dialog, commitment


Ansell, C., & Gash, A. (2008). Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of public administration research and theory, 18(4), 543-571.
Chrislip, D. D., & Larson, C. E. (1994). Collaborative leadership: How citizens and civic leaders can make a difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mullen, C. A., & Kochan, F. K. (2000). Creating a collaborative leadership network: An organic view of change. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 3(3), 183-200.

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