Organizational structure, strategy, technology, culture and other management can all play a role in an enterprise’s competitive advantage. Increasingly, though, creativity and innovation are the primary sources of success in the marketplace. These qualities are not arrived at by accident. They require your (collaborative) leadership to drive them.

Collaborative Leadership Unlocks Potential

Organizational creativity begins with leaders who are interested in it. More than that, they must champion innovation in a spirit of collaboration. Authoritarian/hierarchical management produces employees that are less empowered, less creative and less productive. A collaborative leader does not to take charge so such as inspire, empower and influence the many individuals within that organization who possess the tools and skills to transform it.

Create an Open-Minded Culture – Always in Beta

“ Zappos Family Core Value #4: Be adventurous, creative and open-minded.

“We do not want people to be afraid to take risks and make mistakes. We believe if people aren’t making mistakes, then that means they’re not taking enough risks. Over time, we want everyone to develop his/her gut about business decisions. We want people to develop and improve their decision-making skills. We encourage people to make mistakes as long as they learn from them.

“We never want to become complacent and accept the status quo just because that’s the way things have always been done. We should always be seeking adventure and having fun exploring new possibilities. By having the freedom to be creative in our solutions, we end up making our luck. We approach situations and challenges with an open mind.” –

Remember Tony Hsieh, founder of, and one of our featured speakers at the THINK 10 Conference? is highly successful example of a company that has put a collaborative structure into place and then encourages creative development and innovative thinking.

With the complex challenges we’re facing, consider embracing a “beta mindset”. This means not only by having a clear, long-term vision of where you want to go, but also being ready to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Leading in beta is a mixture of ambition with humility (recognizing the expertise of others) and an imperative for change.

Be a Facilitator

Credit unions can get more from their investments in talent by focusing on collaboration. When knowledge is shared within an organization, marginalized or disengaged employees have a much better chance of joining the ranks of high-performers. It can be their vehicle for making visible contributions, along with being held to a higher standard of accountability. Be an information – as well as a team – facilitator.

Be Playful

“Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it: spend time with your families. Corollary: surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.” – Colin Powell

In the traditional “command and control” work environment, there was little room for laughter or being playful. However, consider promoting an environment seasoned with humor and joy. Many leaders are discovering that the correct balance of humor during the workday actually makes everyone more effective and productive. Just ask employees of Southwest Airlines.

Encourage humor and model it. Be willing to laugh at yourself and your own mistakes, but avoid mocking or chiding others. Schedule regular recreational activities for everyone to enjoy, and encourage everyone to use their vacation time. The truth is it’s downright unhealthy not to encourage a little humor in today’s stress-filled business world!