“Leadership should be born of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it” – Marian Anderson

Yes, I know it’s not a snappy one-liner, but this wisdom from African-American opera singer, Marian Anderson, is gold dust. A lost treasure buried beneath snappy quips from Henry Ford and assorted giants of sports coaching.

If leadership is about creating a shared direction, bringing people with you in that direction and overcoming challenges, how you can you do that if you are unaware of what people need? Badly of course. You don’t need me to point out examples of people whose leadership is born of a total disregard for those affected by it. (Yes that’s you Theresa May, Donald Trump, Philip Green…)

I am privileged to work with leaders who are changing the world we live in. Leaders discovering cures for disease, new ways to travel, answers to some of our greatest challenges.

This is challenging work. If you work in academia you’ll know what I mean. Everyone has competing demands for their time, energy and loyalty. Success comes from collaboration but also competition. It’s a complex culture that isn’t set up for innovation and free-thinking like the commercial playparks of Google and Facebook.

After ten years of working intensively alongside incredible people….
I have created a framework of collaborative leadership that is based on the needs of collaborators you are trying to lead. These are the core needs that all academic collaborators share, regardless of discipline, seniority, culture, geography. They are:

Meaning – I need to know why this work matters
Expertise – I need my expertise to be recognised and to grow
Appreciation – I need to be shown appreciation and respect
Belonging – I need to belong to a group that I can be proud of
Agency – I need to feel a sense of agency and autonomy

I’ve called it MEABA. Like Marian Anderson’s quote, it may not be catchy, but it is accurate. I’ll be sharing more about each of these needs and how they show up in collaboration. I’d love to hear how you have experienced them, let me know below!