10/03/2012 10:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Collaboration: It Is Real? Can It Be?

Truth be told, we don't have a clue what collaboration really means. We act like we do, and we throw the word around like we do. But we don't.

If we TRULY understood collaboration, and the power it can wield when utilized correctly, we wouldn't be experiencing the things we are in corporate America -- and America in general -- today.

If you look at the word "collaboration" itself, you see "co-labor"... working together. There are various definitions of collaboration. A commonly accepted meaning of the term is working together toward a common goal or solution.

Why the sudden soap box on collaboration? Why is it now the sexiest word alive in corporate America? Why are more Americans talking about the need for collaboration?


For corporate America the answer is simple... collaboration = speed to market and profit. For Americans, it's all about America's credit rating. Did you know it's at-risk of a downgrade? Again. Do you know why?

Short answer: Because Congress refuses to collaborate. And, according to this article, "US Credit Rating Under Fire Again," "lawmakers are unlikely to do much until after the election" to help curb or assuage the downgrade.

That is unacceptable leadership behavior!

What IS the problem? What will it take for leaders to put aside selfish desires? Lay down their pride? Why can't we get a line to the common good? Let's put our country ahead of ourselves and our "platforms" -- for the good of our future generations.

Here the thing, we CAN do this... right now. Some of us just choose NOT to.

From the Chicago Teachers' strike, to American Airlines, to the recent NFL referee disagreement, to the daily corporate America battle to break down silos...

It seems many leaders have lost their moral purpose. But we CAN find it again.

The happenings in Congress now MUST be taken as a lesson to all of us: Be a responsible leader -- a leader of impact -- a leader who fulfills your promises. A leader who can collaborate -- and encourage collaboration.

Think about your ripple effect. Take the common good into consideration.

The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other. -- Thomas Stallkamp

[Hint: If you need an inside line on how to "do" collaboration, take some time to read Change Leader: Learning to Do What Matters Most by Michael Fullan, an internationally acclaimed authority on organizational change. In this book, he devotes an entire chapter to collaboration entitled, Collaborate to Compete. Good stuff... and based on moral purpose.]