best in”tensions” #1

This is the first in a series of posts on the tension between battling leadership traits. For the inaugural post we will take a look at Cooperation vs. Collaboration.

Cooperation is a good thing right? Doesn’t that mean we are all working toward the same goal? That we are all getting along? Sometimes. My experience has been that within a team environment that cooperation can be a killer. It kills the spirit. It stifles creativity and might actually cause people to be rebellious toward the team goal. Why? Because as your leader when I “ask” for your cooperation, truth is that I am not asking. I really don’t care what you think. I want you to make my job easier as a leader by having you do what I say.  My idea is better and I want you to not rock the boat. Cooperation is easy and efficient. It’s especially easy to fall into the cooperation trap with volunteers. I am the pastor, I am the expert, I do this for a living, you do not know what you are doing, please do us all a favor and come along for the ride.

Collaboration on the other hand is difficult. Why? Well primarily because I have to relinquish control. As a leader this is not the most comforting situation to be in. This means I have to work that much harder to ‘win” people over to my way of thinking. Or even worse, maybe someone else’s idea or solution to a problem was better than my own. To excel at collaboration you really have to buy into the theory that “two heads (or more) are better than one”. It takes more patience, precious time, and people skills. Also, collaborators embrace the concept of community and are willing to get messy and deal with the difficulties when people let them down.  

This is especially difficult in parenting. In the early years it was much easier to operate by the “Do as I say not as I do” method. My kids are getting older now and we are beginning to move from cooperation to collaboration. I want them to not just do what I say, but begin to form their own opinion and include them in the process of decision making. I want to come along side them in an effort to impart Godly wisdom.

See, I realize that they will soon be leaving and I won’t be able to tell them what to do anymore. When they are out on their own, they will have the freedom to make their own decisions and there won’t be anybody else to cooperate with. Not me. Not their mom. I want them to learn how to collaborate with the Holy Spirit when they need guidance.

Cooperation is about me. Collaboration is about others. I think Jesus is about others. I want to be like Jesus.



3 responses

  1. Well said, Alex. Cool title for this post, too. One of the things that crossed my mind was the role of the leader in serving the team/group by facilitating/initiating collaboration.

  2. Yup! I like collaboration much better! I think we “the called”, so many times forget that others are gifted in ways that we are not and they are the ones that carry on the vision when we stifle as leaders. Because we are the BODY of many moving, different, and yet interdependent parts.

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