In today’s complex society, communities face numerous wicked problems requiring collaborative action. A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of its complex and interconnected nature. Examples like childhood illiteracy underscored the complexity and interconnectedness of agencies, organizations, and community organizers who work together to address such problems. However, managing a community’s social issues requires collaborative action and an individual or group willing to convene the stakeholders. To convene is to come together, or as a verb means to come, cause, assemble, or convoke. A convenor then assembles stakeholders, stepping into a position of leadership.
Leadership can be defined in many ways, but a commonly accepted definition by Peter Northouse is: Leadership is the ability to inspire and influence others towards a common goal or vision while empowering them to take ownership and accountability for their actions and decisions. This definition highlights the importance of inspiring others and empowering them to take responsibility for their actions and the shared vision or goal. Another definition comes from Peter Drucker, who said: The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. This definition emphasizes the importance of followership and the idea that leadership cannot exist without followers. Finally, John C. Maxwell defines leadership as influence, nothing more, nothing less. This definition highlights that leadership is all about influencing others and that a leader’s effectiveness is measured by their ability to influence those around them. Leadership then becomes the ability to inspire, influence, and hold accountable one’s actions and responsibilities for stakeholders’ shared vision or goal.
Based on my 2021 research, I argued that the person who assembles stakeholders within a developed stakeholder network to tackle societal and global issues collaboratively embodies convening leadership. Additionally, my research identified five key practices that a convenor could adopt to acquire the skills required for successful leadership of a collaborative endeavor. Implementing these practices can lead to greater success in accomplishing the collective goals and objectives of the stakeholders involved.
The initially recommended practice is for the convenor to possess self-awareness and comprehend how their fundamental beliefs, values, and attitudes can impact the outcome of collaborations. Self-awareness is essential for a convenor because it allows them to understand their biases and how their perspective can influence the outcome of collaborative efforts. Convenors who possess self-awareness can critically examine their beliefs and values and how they align with the objectives of the collaborative effort.
The second suggested practice for convening leadership is to value the development of collaborative efforts while being mindful of stakeholder diversity and inclusion. Collaborative efforts can involve stakeholders from diverse backgrounds with different socio-economic statuses, customs, languages, influential capacity, and resource disparities. Therefore, convenors must ensure that all stakeholders feel included, heard, and valued throughout the collaborative process. By valuing stakeholder diversity and inclusion, convenors can foster a collaborative environment that encourages innovative solutions, promotes social justice, and enhances the sustainability of collaborative efforts.
The third best practice for convening leadership involves striving for excellence by understanding and meeting stakeholders’ expectations. In convening leadership, excellence requires convenors to clearly understand the goals and objectives of the collaborative effort and the stakeholders’ expectations.
The fourth best practice for convening leadership involves assuming the role of organizer and administrator of the collaborative effort while also being adaptable to the required roles and responsibilities. Convenors must clearly understand the collaborative effort’s structure and organization, including the stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities. Assuming the role of organizer and administrator can be challenging, especially in complex collaborative efforts involving multiple stakeholders and diverse goals and objectives. However, convenors can overcome these challenges and facilitate successful collaborative efforts by being organized, adaptable, and proactive.
The fifth and final best practice for convening leadership involves recognizing and adeptly addressing tensions that may arise during collaborations. Collaborative efforts often involve multiple stakeholders with diverse perspectives, interests, and priorities, which can create tensions and conflicts. A convenor may be called to facilitate constructive dialogue, manage power dynamics, navigate external pressures, and communicate effectively to ensure that collaborative efforts remain focused, productive, and impactful.
In summary, convening leadership involves bringing together diverse stakeholders to collaboratively solve societal and global challenges. Effective convening leadership requires a convenor to:
- Possess self-awareness and comprehend how their fundamental beliefs, values, and attitudes can impact the outcome of collaborations.
- Value the development of collaborative efforts while accounting for stakeholder diversity and inclusion across socio-economic status, customs, languages, influential capacity, and resource disparities.
- Strive for excellence by understanding and meeting the expectations of stakeholders.
- Assume the role of organizer and administrator of the collaborative effort while being adaptable to the various roles and responsibilities required.
- Recognize and adeptly address tensions that may arise during collaborations by facilitating constructive dialogue, managing power dynamics, navigating external pressures, and communicating effectively.
By following these best practices, convenors can help ensure that collaborative efforts remain focused, productive, and impactful and ultimately lead to greater success in achieving the goals and objectives of the collaborative stakeholders. The best practices of convening leadership will be discussed in future columns more thoroughly because community matters.
Dr. Patricia A. Clary is a syndicated columnist who consults with nonprofit and business sector partnerships that promote strategic community impact agendas to solve complex societal issues through governance, collaboration, and convening leadership. Connect with Dr. Clary at patriciaclary.com, LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/pat-clary/, Facebook PatriciaAClaryPhD, or [email protected]. ©2023 All Rights Reserved.