Do you help or hinder your company’s ability to reach its potential?

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are …” –Jesus

Collaborating with other people or groups can be a challenge, even when we are able to pick the people we want to “co-labor” with.

Ask any couple that has been married for more than a few years and they will affirm that even the people we are most in love with aren’t always easy to cooperate with.

Expand that out into organizations, groups and communities with competing interests and, in some cases, histories of violent and painful conflict, and it’s easy to see why it’s hard for us to live together sometimes.

Leaders in organizations are nearly always challenged more by the dynamics that come from the people they are trying to lead than they are by the problems they are trying to solve. Getting a group to agree on a problem is fairly easy.

People are quick to point those out. But getting them to agree on solutions is leaders work. There is always a tendency to retreat into our smaller selves when conflict emerges.

And here, in the thick of conflict, competition and tension is where leaders show what they are really made of.

The big picture

Great leaders always bring us back to larger truths that speak to our aspirations. We cannot bring about collaborative, purposeful and complete results by sinking to the lowest common denominator leadership that is at the root of so many of our social and political impasses today.

A leader that is content to jump in with thoughts and ideas that do not represent our highest and best personal and collective aspirations will not bring our great hopes to life.

As leaders we cannot separate our personal development and character from the capabilities and outcomes of the organizations we are leading. The buck stops with us.

If organizations or businesses in your circle seem to be collaborating with ease while yours continues to struggle on its own, look no further than the ways in which your resentment, self-esteem, attachment to power and ego are playing into the authenticity and openness you bring to the negotiating table.

Again, what pulls us away from these things is always the same … an appeal toward a higher level of thinking.

Our successes and failures in relationships (and collaborations) are perhaps the greatest mirror reflecting our inner work back to us.

If we want to bring people together, we have to learn to authentically see their points of view. We have to cultivate the empathy to understand their fears and the humility to confront their anger, which may be directed at us.

If we are not living a life called to a higher level of reason and thought, how can we inspire the people that are following us to respond in kind? We all fail, regularly, in this aspect of leadership. But let us never tire of working on the self we must create from within so we can effectively co-create from without. #SteadyOn

Daniel Flowers is president and CEO at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.