3 Powerful Results for Leaders Who Collaborate

Published July 23, 2018


CollaborationDiversityLeading Others

Collaboration is the essence of life. The wind, bees and flowers work together, to spread the pollen. ― Amit Ray

Collaboration may not be a new concept in the leadership world, but it is such a powerful practice that it should not be muted or ignored. There is huge evidence that some of the greatest leaders were strategic collaborators, and some of the most culture-changing inventions were a product of collaboration.

Doctors Watson and Crick were practically strangers when they began their work trying to understand the structure of the DNA molecule. But, by collaborating with chemist Dr. Rosalind Franklin, they were able to describe the double helix that now forms the framework for the basic building blocks of all life.

Lennon and McCartneyWhen John Lennon and Paul McCartney started writing songs together, they had no idea how powerful their collaboration would be. Music historians claim the unique and diverse partnership of Lennon and McCartney was the driving force that changed popular music forever.

Google GuysLarry Page and Sergey Brin started a company to experiment with search algorithms. It has grown to become an integral part of most of our lives—that company is Google. Our world is in desperate need of leaders who will collaborate. Whether in business, politics or faith, collaboration is not only needed, but it is the key to fixing the problems and challenges that are all around us.

  • When business leaders​ collaborate, there are greater profits and greater products for the consumer.
  • When politicians​ collaborate, there is less polarization and greater results and service for the people.
  • When church leaders​ collaborate with other churches and “best practice” faith-based organizations, people benefit—especially the poor and marginalized—and we show off the goodness of God.

In my own leadership journey of 30-plus years, I have witnessed that ​all of my true successes have been through collaboration. I have done nothing great on my own. Leading through collaboration has produced 3 powerful results in my leadership life.

Result #1: I Am Wiser

Many diverse voices and collaborations, with differing opinions and backgrounds, have made me a much wiser person.

  • From liberal sociologist Tony Campolo, to conservative compassionate child advocate Wess Stafford, my heart has broken and been moved to action for the poor.
  • From Irish rock star Bono, to brilliant businessman Bill Gates, my urgency and hope to end extreme poverty has increased.
  • From successful business man Jim Copeland to a mother committed to global public health Kim Dixon, my life has been refocused on the rights of children and women around the world.

I am much wiser today because of all of these collaborators. In the words of leadership guru John C. Maxwell, “The company owner doesn’t need to win. The best idea does.”

Result #2: I Have Accomplished Greater Things

As senior pastor of a local church for 24 years, I look back and am amazed at two things: 1) How many great things my church was able to accomplish, and 2) How few of those things were my idea. It was all collaboration!

These are just a few examples of the work our church has done:

  • Sponsorship of over 1500 children in some of the poorest places in the world, partnering with “best practice” child advocate organizations.
  • A local auto ministry that worked on hundreds of cars a month for single moms and senior citizens led by a full-time working engineer, a retired civil engineer and qualified volunteers.
  • A free funeral ministry serving families during their most difficult time of life. My church averaged one funeral a week, mostly for unchurched families, led by compassionate teams, many who worked full time and some who are retired.
  • A 20,000-square foot garden led and created by a retired engineer and long-time farmer where vast amounts of vegetables were grown and given away to those who need but can’t afford nutritious food.
  • A Stop-Trafficking ministry where passionate leaders strategized to eradicate this extreme injustice, both locally and globally. They have raised the awareness of thousands of people and have raised thousands of dollars. They have acquired thousands of backpacks and gift cards for the local FBI to give to rescued young girls, and helped to start rescue homes in our local area and in New Delhi, India.
  • The 1:27 ministry, where the motto is “No Orphan Left Behind,” a ministry that educates, equips and supports those who want to be involved in the local foster care system as well as those interested in adoption both locally and globally.

All of these ministries were collaborations, run by volunteer leaders and volunteer teams. This is the power of collaboration. This is the path to greatness. Mother Teresa said it succinctly, “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”

Result #3: I Have Stayed Relevant

Author Brett Harris states,

The beauty of collaboration between older and younger generations is that we combine strength with wisdom—a surefire way to accomplish more for the glory of God.

I love being a part of local and global collaborations as I move further in my leadership journey. I find myself now, often as the older generational leader, speaking wisdom into receptive, young leaders who have great energy and passion to change the world.

What I have learned is that the younger generation is much more into collaboration. In fact, it is in their nature to collaborate first, rather than try to reinvent the wheel.

Mentoring plus sharing my successes and failures has given the younger generation courage and wisdom to navigate and move forward in this ever-changing world.

Their simpler, unjaded view of the world gives me hope and energy to keep dreaming and keep trying. One of the greatest gifts we have as leaders when it comes to collaboration is The Global Leadership Summit, held every August at 600+ sites across the U.S., by the Willow Creek Association.

As a leader, I have attended the Summit every year since the beginning in the early 90s. This is truly the definition of collaboration.​ Young and old, global and local, people from the business world, political world and faith-based world. It is a gathering of people from every walk of life, from nearly every ethnic background, rich, poor, male, female, all coming together to become better leaders.

No matter where you are in your leadership journey, I highly recommend this powerful collaborative event. ​

  • The GLS has made me wiser. ​
  • It has caused to do greater things. ​
  • It has made me more relevant today than ever.
About the Author(s)
Ken Burkey

Ken Burkey

Executive Director


Ken Burkey is the executive director of Live58 fosters collaborative partnerships with local churches to develop focused strategies to better position themselves to serve the poor effectively. Prior to his role at Live58, Ken was the senior pastor at Green Valley Community Church in Placerville, California, for 23 years. He is the author of the book, The Power of an Orange Chair: Anecdotes, Stories and Celebrations of an Isaiah 58 Church.