Collaboration vs Competition

5 minute read…

Collaborations are balancing acts

and ones that require all contributors to be

respectful and appreciative of the journey collaboration always creates.


Collaboration is respectfully working together to achieve a goal or to explore something of mutual importance. Partnerships require respect for each other and a high level of communication, so each can work to their strengths but assist each other at the same time.

Collaborations of more than two require a leader and at times the leader has to know when to follow another, or when to hold firm. Holding firm needs to have grounded reasons. All proposals need to be considered and be in the realm of the goal or purposefully enhance the chance of discovering what is of mutual benefit to the collaboration. They cannot be at the expense of another or detraction from the integrity of the collaborative process, or for an ego feed.

When the leader holds firm to a decision and willingly gives reasons as to why, when respected the collaborations move smoothly within the premise. Communication is key and the ability to discuss honestly is one the most valuable sources to the collaboration.

When holding firm is disrespected, competition ignites. This means those who feel their ideas are being rejected, take it as a rejection of themselves and track down the path of believing everything they have done should entitle them to get what they want, and reasoning can be lost on deaf ears. This will ignite an overt or covert retaliation as they will seek to prove that they can impact the goal originally collaborated for. Competition, jealousy and resentment destroy the ability to collaborate.

The leader and others must acknowledge the skills, creativity and support of all contributing to the collaboration. This can inspire more creativity. Collaboration is a shared event that each person brings their uniqueness to. It is an event that can allow the strengths of each person to shine and for all to feel the slipstream of that strength bringing them closer to the goal.

When the strength of another is envied or becomes something others despise, it creates an imbalance that makes it difficult to be creative. If the desire to control and harness others’ skills and achievements, becomes someone’s contribution to the collaboration, they become the source of upheaval. Laying complete claim over something and disregarding others input to steal the accolades, take control or positioning themselves as superior, dismantles the ability to collaborate.

Being blinded by the desire for power over others, invokes a competitive approach, which will cause others to compete and some to withdraw. If the person seeking power becomes disgruntled, the purpose and history of the collaboration become irrelevant and they seek to show themselves, they have power in other ways. They become judgemental and oppositional to everything. They undermine everything achieved and begin to look for ways to remain disgruntled. They accuse others of what they are doing and play mind games. They refuse to be honest about themselves and selfishly disengage.

The leader’s role is to listen but not succumb. It is to find merit in opinions and to seek the truth. It is not their job to appease emotional outbursts or run the gauntlet of another’s emotional immaturity. It is their job to be steadfast in reality and seek to uncover and resolve issues that jeopardise what the collaboration is about. They must provide opportunities for events to be discussed and have empathy for those in distress. However, if the disgruntled person is not forthcoming, and is unwilling to address the issues at hand the leader is powerless to find a mutual resolution. They must acknowledge the emotional virus that is undermining the collaborative process and, adapt and change those they collaborate with.

The leader must also accept that they too can sometimes lose perspective and be willing to acknowledge their own stumbles. They have to ensure their emotional reactions are not the virus and be sure they have calmly explored all possibilities. They cannot emotionally act out on the team and must lead by example. Although, they should remain focused on the goal.

When trust is eroded the leader must accept change and not cling to beliefs of what was or can be, and instead acknowledge what is now. Trusting each other in the collaboration is essential, because it is the foundation of working out solutions to problems or exploring into the unknown. Competition eliminates trust, because others become wary and fear being taken from and exploited. This causes creativity to dry out and repetition to take its place.

Competitors can become consumed with the idea that they are irreplaceable and over-inflate their importance. They may arrogantly believe the project hinges on their input, while disregarding all other contributors. They often compulsively seek to highlight the short-falls of others, honing in on mistakes while ignoring successes. They can become competitive with the leader and instead of working with, begin to make demands to secure their control over the collaboration. Some will hoard information, making themselves the go-to-person. They will deliberately withhold details so they can swoop in at the end the day and rescue those who were misinformed.

The leader must accept they are the leader, and the experience is just as important as the goal. They must accept some decisions will have unforeseen repercussions, and that you can be loyal, supportive and appreciative of the collaborator but you cannot manage those who have decided to be unmanageable. The leader must accept they are the pivotal point and the captain of the voyage, and acknowledge when to dock for others to depart.

Think of it similar to an old fashion maypole. The central pole is the leader who represents the goal. The leader’s job is to anchor the project, hold to the integrity of its original conception and to create the balance. Each person that is connected to the project is connected to the pole (leader), via the ribbon they bring or one that is supplied. When they all move in a symbiotic rhythm, respecting the integrity of what the collaboration is endeavouring to achieve, it becomes an enjoyable dance. Fun for all involved.

The ribbon of the collaborator can become closer to the pole if it is woven in a certain pattern or it can be used to hold distance from the pole, only moving in when required. The movement of the dancers (collaborators) determine how the pole is wrapped in ribbon. There can be individual partnerships contributing together (sharing a ribbon) and stay in one certain pattern as others weave, but all are contributing to the dance.

The pole is the highest point and with that comes the responsibility to see the furthest, the pole (leader) sees at times a slightly different horizon to the dancers. The pole is the pivotal point and sets up the playground. If the pole (leader) falls the dance is over. If the pole is not secure it is dangerous for all. If the pole gets cut down and yet still stands there will be less scope to dance in. It is important that the pole and the ribbon dancers recognise that both are contributing to the dance.

The maypole is a fertility rite that brings union, danced in spring (time of a new adventure) and is for the purpose of benefiting all who dance. If you choose to be part of the dance, dance with integrity. If you are the pole, be strong, support the dancers and retain your integrity. 

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.