The Future of Collaborative Leadership in Solving Global Problems

William Woods Business

Fresh water scarcity is a global humanitarian issue but also a critical business problem for a number of industries including the beverage business.

Take Coca-Cola for example, who uses two liters of fresh water for every one liter of product, and has a significant number of production plants in regions affected by water shortages. A decade ago, the company’s water usage led to a production ban in South India.

To solve the water scarcity problem, Coca-Cola recognized the necessity to collaborate with both public and non-profit sectors. The company needed a tri-sector leader — someone who can engage and collaborate across business, government and non-profit sectors­. An outsider, Jeff Seabright, was hired for the job. Among his other achievements, Seabright organized a number of strategic public partnerships and helped position Coca-Cola as one of the leaders on the issue. Today, the company is 35% of the way to meeting their water neutrality goal by 2020.

In a Harvard Business Review article, “Why the World Needs Tri-Sector Leaders” the founders of The Intersector Project, Nick Lovegrove and Matthew Thomas suggest that the future of collaborative leadership depends on the ability of leaders to engage and collaborate with the multiple sectors.

According to their website, The Intersector Project is a “non-profit organization that seeks to empower practitioners in the business, government, and non-profit sectors to collaborate and solve problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone.” To that end, the website provides A Toolkit for Intersector Collaboration, a library of case studies, and research.

In business, collaborative leadership is a growing trend spurred by the rising popularity of public private partnerships and strategic alliances between corporations. As global issues become a more dominant force in the private sector, more businesses will depend on collaborative leaders to facilitate the road to multi-sector solutions.

The William Woods MBA program in Entrepreneurial Leadership trains students to build smart, agile teams  — one of the foundational components of collaborative leadership. Similarly, the program’s focus on developing student’s emotional and social intelligence aligns with contextual intelligence, one of the six characteristics of a tri-sector leader as defined by the founders of The Intersector Project.

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