The Collaborative Leader

Jay Seifert
Sep 4, 2013 08:04 AM
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Jay Seifert, Guest ColumnistJay Seifert is the co-founder of LoneStart Wellness. He is a pioneer in applying established principles of social neuroscience and behavioral economics to individual and organizational “wellness.” His strategy is specifically designed to improve the health and well-being of those individuals most at risk for preventable chronic illness but least likely to participate in traditional “diet and exercise” programs. He is a monthly wellness guest columnist and you can see his columns in the first NCHN e-News of the month or right here on the blog.

The Collaborative Leader

OK, just what does that mean?  Over the past six months, these posts have discussed a number of attributes usually ascribed to an effective leader.  Being collaborative hasn’t been one of them.  In fact, one of the meanings of the word “collaborator” is “someone who willingly assists an enemy of one’s country.”  Not very leader-like.

But here’s something interesting.  We just celebrated Labor Day and the word “collaborate” comes from the Latin com + laborare which means “to labor together.”  And since collaboration will be a recurring theme at this year’s NCHN Leadership Summit, this seemed like an opportunity too good to pass up.  And, on top of that, Diana Nyad just completed her historic Cuba-to-Florida 110-mile swim.  Not only did the 64 year-old proclaim and demonstrate that she’s in her prime (something that ought to gladden the hearts of all of us over the age of 50), as she walked on shore she said:

"I got three messages.  One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams.  Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team."

In other words, it was a collaborative effort.  So, based on all of the above, let’s see how big a stretch we have to make to connect the ability to collaborate with effective leadership.

As it turns out, not much of a stretch at all.  The idea of Collaborative Leadership originated in the 1990’s in reference to emerging strategic alliances between private corporations and public sector organizations.  Those leaders were able to deliver results across traditional boundaries and do so in a way that would create value, deliver social benefit and generate wealth. 

Today’s network leader has an opportunity to do just that.  By working effectively (collaborating) with both private and public stakeholders, they are uniquely situated to assume a leadership role in addressing an issue that is having a profound impact on their organizations, their partners and the communities they serve—our escalating healthcare cost crisis.  More importantly, they have the ability to do so in a way that will deliver multiple tangible and lasting benefits to their network.

“And just where do I find the time to do all of this?” you ask.  Very fair question given the multiple challenges facing today’s networks and their partners.  And the answer is the same one we give our Team Esteem Challenge participants: 

  • Ask yourself what will happen if you take no action.
  • Be mindful of the opportunities to make modest but meaningful improvements in a few low-risk, high-return behaviors.
  • Use these initial achievements to provide the self-belief that further achievements are possible.
  • Create an environment that fosters well-being so healthier behaviors can be learned, adopted, shared and sustained.

If this sounds too good to be true, I invite you to attend our session, "How Leading By Learning In the Face of Mounting Obstacles Makes For An Awesome Leader," on October 1st at this year’s NCHN Leadership Summit  You’ll have an opportunity to be a part of the NCHN / LoneStartNow Collaboration to demonstrate to your network and your partners, other NCHN members, the communities you serve and anyone else who cares about the declining health status of our nation just what can be accomplished if we heed the wise words of Margaret Mead: 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
Committed citizens can change the world. 
It is the only thing that ever has.”

If you have questions or issues you would like us to address in this column, contact: Jay Seifert at 512-894-3440 or   

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