How To Keep Collaboration From Becoming Compromise

Image Credit: Shutterstock 

Image Credit: Shutterstock 

Every leader has to learn how to move ideas forward through teams.

Leaders influence people to advance a cause. Easier said than done :) 

Many times, before you can get traction, you need to get buy-in.

And before you can get buy-in, you have to let leaders on your team weigh-in.

There is a tension to every leader must manage between leaning into their team and leading their team.

Like you, I want to learn to do it at a higher level. Here is a 3-minute clip from Apple CEO Tim Cook sharing at DUKE on effective collaboration. 

For the record, I'm a HUGE fan of collaboration.

One of the greatest attributes a leader can have is enough discernment to move in deference.

Yet, I have in the name of "collaboration" at times, watered down my vision, lowered my standard or acquiesced to the will of the group.

Most times, collaboration is a leader's best friend. Yet, other times, it can lead to compromise. 

Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) in the amazing movie Darkest Hour depicts a leader who is under immense pressure from his war cabinet and Parliament members to appease Hitler and talk of peace options. In his gut, he knows this is not the way to go.

It is so hard to stand alone for so long. 

Image credit: The Telegraph 

Image credit: The Telegraph 

Churchill finally realizes that the heart of the British people has much more "fight" in them than his cabinet ever dreamed. If we are not careful our teams (staff) can be delusional when it comes to what is right for the people because they are blinded by what is "right" for them. 

He goes with his gut.

He withstands pressure from his war cabinet advisors.

His actions and decisions helped save Britain and the rest of Europe from being overrun by Nazi forces. 

"Leaders, listen to the group but lead from your gut." 

Collaboration can be a beautiful process that leads to creativity or a paralyzing process that leads to compromise.

In the case of Moses and his leadership team, we can also learn a few things.

Here is a story Moses is recounting and retelling at the end of his leadership career.

Moses was commanded by God to enter the Promise Land unafraid and confident in God’s promises.

In this spirit, he said to his team and their people…

20 I said to you, ‘You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. 21 Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ (Deut. 1:20-21 NLT)

Moses’ team, however, suggested to him that they first send out scouts to spy the land before following God’s directive.

22 “But you all came to me and said, ‘First, let’s send out scouts to explore the land for us. They will advise us on the best route to take and which towns we should enter.’ (Deut. 1:22 NLT, emphasis added)

Moses took an instruction from the Lord and made it subject to an idea from the people he was supposed to be leading. 

The idea didn’t seem bad to begin with so Moses went with it.

23 “This seemed like a good idea to me, so I chose twelve scouts, one from each of your tribes. (Deut. 1:23 NLT)

The LORD saw what was in the hearts’ of the people and then also told Moses to send out spies into the Promise Land. (Num. 13:1 NLT)

This decision sabotaged an entire generation's destiny. 

The report that came back led to murmuring in their tents and widespread fear in their hearts.

28 Where can we go? Our brothers have demoralized us with their report. (Deut. 1:29 NLT)

Critical thinking can be a leader's best friend. It can literally save you from catastrophic and unintended consequences. Yet, complaining is one of the quickest ways to weaken vision and lose your way. 

As is often said, "A negative mind will never give you a positive life." 

Image credit: Lifehack

Image credit: Lifehack

Here are a few leadership lessons from this story:

  •  Listen to your team, but at the end of the day, never allow a creative idea from your people trump a clear instruction from your God.
  • Collaboration can lead to amazing creativity or damaging compromise.
  • Be wise in the kind of leaders you choose to discuss vision in their presence. Some of them may try to get you to abort the very vision you were called to birth.
  • Just because God allows and even appears to temporarily endorse an idea, does not mean it was His original or best plan of action.

You can pick your decisions but you cannot pick your consequences. –Steven Furtick

(Israel’s disobedience and lack of faith turned an 11-day journey through the wilderness into a 40-yr, generation ending, nightmare!)

  • Not every popular idea is backed by heavens promise. Just because it’s popular or even productive for someone else, does not mean it will carry supernatural potency for your situation.
  • While leaders need to lead, they must never use their position or power for spiritual abuse or manipulation. Pulling out the "God said so" card is often a sign of a lack of influence and usually diminishes a leader's credibility in the long run. 
  • It takes discernment to know if you are in one of those rare Ted Turner, "Lead, follow or get out of the way" decisive moments OR if you are in an Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem, apostle James, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" collaborative moments. 
  • While collaboration can be tricky, hearing from God is often a team sport.

“None of us are as smart as all of us!”                   -Ken Blanchard


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The buck always stops with the leader. Everything you see around you is something you have either intentionally created or passively tolerated.

"Collaboration done right leads to multiplication." -John Maxwell 

Image credit: Chowly 

Image credit: Chowly 

  • Collaboration at its finest is a beautiful picture of honor which God loves. Collaboration at its worst is fear-based idolatry, which God hates. 
  • As a leader, it is your job to always make clear in times of collaboration the "rules of engagement": 
    • Is it a matter "if" we are doing this or "how" or "when" we are moving forward with this idea? 
    • In this meeting are we dreaming, talking or deciding? 
    • What are the boundary lines for this planning session? Is everything on the table or just certain aspects of this project? 
    • Who will blow the whistle and make the final call on our ideas? 
  • Even after being burned by “group think” or seeing collaboration lead to compromise, never stop trusting, developing and leading through teams.

Join The Conversation. Leave A Comment. 

How have you seen collaboration benefit your team?

How have you learned to diversify your use of collaboration? 

When have you had to listen to the group but lead with your gut? 

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Joshua Finley2 Comments