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Leading Through Collaboration

by Tracy Duberman


Leading Through Collaboration

A growing focus on partnerships has emerged in the field of leadership development, which emphasizes a new way of leading through collaboration and teaming at all levels within an organization, as well as across organizations. The partnership model has emerged in response to the growing complexities and demands of today’s changing workplace environment.1 This new leadership model helps to distribute responsibility and engages team members to achieve strategic and operational goals.2 All different types of partnerships are essential to an organization’s progress and overall success so the big question is: “How do we establish and maintain effective partnerships?”

First and foremost, a “team” mindset must be integrated within the organization’s culture, but it’s not enough to simply insist that employees collaborate more often. The focus of the partnership is shared responsibility and equal accountability. Successful partnerships are built upon a foundation of mutual trust and respect, alignment, shared goals and values, and a common mission statement. Thus, it is important for leaders to remind team members about the fundamental purpose driving the partnership.3

For provider organizations, the shared purpose is delivering high-quality care to patients. To lead today, health systems must develop partnerships between their clinical (physician and nurse) leaders and non-clinical leaders and facilitate team-based care delivery. In today’s new environment, health care leaders must work under an interdependent, rather than an independent leadership model.4 Today administrators, physicians, and nurse leaders must work collaboratively with open communication and trust in order to achieve common goals. Successful partnerships work together to set goals, create operating and capital budget, implement initiatives, and oversee operating and clinical performance. Recently, a lot of attention has been focused on dyad partnerships – a pairing in which two individuals from different functional areas work together to co-manage and co-lead a service, function, therapeutic area, etc. Both individuals are responsible for overall performance, but each member of the partnership brings with them a unique perspective, as well as specific knowledge and skills that serve to complement each other. A common example of a healthcare dyad partnership is the collaboration between physicians and nurses managers and/or administrators.

Similarly, the changing environment of the life sciences industry is prompting companies to focus on the establishing collaborative partnerships especially within Research and Development. The life sciences industry is being confronted with pressures to cut costs and remain afloat in a competitive environment. This is driving the need for an innovative approach and a widespread cultural change focused on collaboration across departments and functional levels of the organization.5 The life sciences industry is also continuing to become more reliant upon inter-organizational collaboration. Over the years, pharmaceutical companies have partnered with biotech companies, academic medical centers, CROs, and suppliers to enhance their product pipeline.6 Success is predicated on creating seamless collaboration with partners.

Partnerships occur at many levels both within and across organizations. The need for partnerships in organizations has grown tremendously given the changing healthcare environment requiring cross-functional partnerships within the organization as well as strong partnerships across the industry to ensure effective patient delivery and innovative research and development, fueling innovation and efficiency across the entire healthcare spectrum.



  1. Gardner, H.K. (2015, March). When Senior Managers Won’t Collaborate. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/03/when-senior-managers-wont-collaborate
  2. Newton, R. (2014, July). Collaborate Across Teams, Silos, and Even Companies. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/07/collaborate-across-teams-silos-and-even-companies
  3. Nayar, V. (2014, April). A Shared Purpose Drives Collaboration. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/04/a-shared-purpose-drives-collaboration/
  4. Conrad, A.J. & Duberman, T. (2015, January). Creating exceptional physician-nurse partnerships: Using collaborative partnerships to raise the standard of care and improve the overall patient experience. American Hospital Association: Physician Leadership Forum. Retrieved from https://ahaphysicianforum.wordpress.com/2015/01/
  5. Senn Delaney. (2013). Leading cultural change in biopharmaceutical R&D
  6. Toor, S. & McBride, R. (2012). 20 Major Pharma-Academic Alliances in 2012. Retrieved from http://www.fiercAebiotech.com/slideshows/20-major-pharma-academic-alliances-2012



Tracy Duberman

Written by Tracy Duberman