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Collaboration and Shared Leadership

The A+ Schools Program integrates the arts into curriculum transforming the leadership of the schools, profoundly impacting school success.

The A+ Schools Program integrates the arts into curriculum transforming the leadership of the schools, profoundly impacting school success.

The state of public education today is a hot topic. On any day, you can hear about how our education system is failing, outmoded, outdated, behind the times and generally terrible. There is constant conversation about how to fix this broken system and not a lot of agreement on the best approach.

In North Carolina, a program called A+ Schools has been quietly, consistently improving the quality of public education since 1995 by instilling collaboration and shared leadership into the schools. Their mission is really to integrate the arts into the curriculum but their approach has been transforming the leadership of the schools, profoundly impacting school success. It’s a surprising result that speaks to the influence of leadership styles and the value of collaboration on organizational success and satisfaction.

And when was the last time an educational program was so successful that it is instructive for the business community? Usually, we think of it the other way around, that schools could improve from adopting business thinking. Read this article about the A+ schools program.  Be sure to answer the questions in the box on the left hand side to apply these concepts to your own business.

You, too can reap the benefits of collaboration and shared leadership. Here are some tips from Michelle Burrows, Director, North Carolina A+ Schools and my lovely sister:

What Helps:


Remove the ego. When collaborators focus on team goals instead of personal gains, effective teamwork can happen.

Listen. Listening actively rather than preparing what to say next helps people understand and empathize with their teammates.

Lead and follow. In teams, leadership is shared, shifting from member to member based on the task. Be ready to lead or follow and shift easily between the two.

Withhold judgment. Trust is essential for collaboration. Team members should be able to share their thoughts, opinions and beliefs without fear of judgment.

Give up any need for individual credit. When the group succeeds, every team member succeeds.

Celebrate the team. It takes hard work and deep personal engagement to create a successful collaborative team. Celebrate each member and the group’s achievements.


What Hinders:

Closed posture. Words aren’t required for a body to demonstrate judgment, disinterest or lack of empathy. Closed posture indicates a lack of openness to the collaborative process.

Insist on “my way or the highway.” It’s difficult to collaborate when one team member “knows it all.” A lack of shared leadership can cause a collaborative team to self-destruct.

Take credit. The saying “there’s no ‘I’ in team” should not be taken lightly. When team members are in it for personal gain and selfish reasons, collaboration is difficult.

Undermine trust. It bears repeating: Without trust, team members resort to behaviors that harm the collaborative process.

Compete. Healthy cross-team competition is OK. But competition within a team can bring out members’ insecurities, prompting unproductive behaviors and a breakdown in positive interactions.

About the Author

Lori MazanLori Mazan is the founder of Leading From Center, originally started as Seventh Wave coaching in 1996. A seasoned advisor and executive coach herself, Lori also provides high caliber, hand picked and personally supervised affiliate coaches. One of the first 300 certified coaches in the US, Lori has been working for almost two decades with Fortune 100 executives in companies including Chevron, Sprint, and Roche/Genentech, as well as funded growth companies like Coverity, Intellikine, and Tapjoy. Her background includes training thousands of people in leadership skills ranging from deep listening to complex arenas of conflict resolution, motivation, and organizational and political savvy. Blending experience with theory, Lori taught 10 years of college level social psychology and group dynamics courses. Lori lives in Southern California with her son, two cats and a dozen goldfish. She has a 20+ year practice in the art of Tai Chi Chuan.View all posts by Lori Mazan →

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