Effective Leadership in Network Collaboration: Lessons Learned from Continuum of Care Homeless Programs


Effective Leadership in Network Collaboration: Lessons Learned from Continuum of Care Homeless Programs

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 - 15:43
Cross-sector collaboration has become a prevalent form of governance for tackling difficult problems that can’t be addressed by a single organization or sector.

A scarcity of resources and efforts to reinvent the way governments function has also conditioned many public managers to pursue new approaches that go beyond organizational boundaries. To date, the assumption has been that
collaboration is good and that pooling resources will automatically result in positive outcomes. Because the benefits of collaboration are too often assumed, there is little research about what effective collaboration means or looks like. Collaboration requires effort, coordination, and most importantly, effective leadership. Therefore, it is essential to understand the scope of leadership behaviors that lead to successful collaboration.

Leaders have choices in how they engage with member agencies and how they achieve the mission and objectives of collaboration. Different styles of leadership will lead to different outcomes that will either enhance or reduce effective partnerships. A key reason for this is because a public manager who leads a collaborative network plays an incredibly important role in the process. Among other responsibilities, they are commonly tasked with bringing organizations together, securing the necessary resources to achieve network goals, and articulating a common vision. Scholarly research has usually treated network leaders as agents of underlying organizational decisions, driving the management of collaboration. But public managers leading collaborative efforts are real people who possess leadership qualities and skills that will influence effective collaboration in numerous ways.

As a result, the report focuses on answering two practical questions:

  • What does effective collaboration look like and does leadership matter?

  • If leadership is important, what specific skills and qualities are valuable for leaders to possess and/or develop in order to lead successful collaborative efforts?

To answer these questions, we studied collaboration within the context of homelessness policy networks (an area receiving significant policy attention in recent years). This report specifically investigates the role of managers leading
continuum of care homeless networks and the leadership behaviors that matter in achieving successful collaborative

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