Leadership patterns have a profound influence on the direction of multi-stakeholder partnerships. Effective MSPs require that those in leadership roles – whether these are formal or informal, political, cultural or other – support and promote the collaborative principles on which such processes depend. Facilitation without such collaborative leadership can be almost impossible, so developing collaborative leadership capacities can be a vital aspect of an effective MSP.
Collaborative leadership is about a form of leadership that fosters a ‘facilitative’ and ‘collaborative’ process – i.e. supports the overall approach of resolving things together. At many moments this may mean working collectively and in a shared way, but at others it may require more authoritative or directive behaviours. Without the existence of an ideal type of leadership, an effective leadership approach is highly situational. Both the nature of the process and the cultural context will shape which approach is appropriate at any given moment.
Promoting collaborative leadership might be especially challenging without a sound understanding of the existing patterns and types of leadership among the stakeholder groups, including those based on e.g. social, economic and political status hierarchies, traditional values, professional capacities, in order to identify where these may or may not be constructive to the process.
While the analysis of existing linkages between stakeholders may assist facilitators to distinguish leadership qualities, it is equally important to involve stakeholders in critically analyzing different leadership styles and their consequences for the advancement of the on-going processes. Doing so, one can together contribute to the building and promotion of leadership behaviours which enable and attach value to collaboration.