The Highest Form of Leadership: Collaborative, and Values-Based Communication

“True humanitarian leaders care enough about humanity to search out the needs, problems, and solutions for people in need. They find something that inspires them but also serves others.

“It’s always about the people.” 

                                                                                                - Dr. John Demartini

Life is sales. Every day we attempt to persuade, cajole and encourage people – big and small – to cooperate with us in an endless number of interactions and transactions that are normal between human beings. We bring all our energies to asking a girl to the dance – or asking for her hand in marriage; for volunteering to distribute health information, working to promote a candidate, asking Dad for the car keys or a raise in our allowance, negotiating a better price for a new or used car, interviewing for a new job, contracting for a service, asking a favor, getting someone to change a behavior, or building a friendship. All of these interactions involve sales, in some form or fashion; and the person who can clearly and coherently express an idea, an intention, or an abstract theory holds the key to selling, or persuading others to meet their own needs, desires and dreams, as well as those of others.

 Leadership involves sales and persuasion of the highest order, whether steering a ship of State to running a small business successfully. From the perspective of encouraging positive human interactions, the state of mind that results in unleashing the greatest productivity and creativity within ourselves or among a group of people, is when goals and values are aligned. This is the apex where collaborative and values-based communications merge to define the highest form of leadership, which can be termed as “humanitarian” leadership.

Humanitarian leadership never operates from the top down. Rather, this type of leadership promotes clear communication at all levels of an organization, and builds loyalty and an employee sense of “ownership” instead of employing elements of control. The true humanitarian leader thinks of “we” rather than “me” in his or her approach to the company, its challenges, and its human resources.


When a leader can tap into commonly shared experiences, company values and goals, and can reinforce areas of agreement rather than highlighting differences, employees are more open to change, to new ideas, and feel encouraged and inspired to work smarter and harder, so as to successfully achieve company and personal goals.


To build a collaborative workplace, incorporate these practices into the daily routines, and encourage company leaders and managers to:

  • Plan together with employees: For employees to fully “buy-in” to an idea,

or support a major change, they must feel a degree of ownership in planning for the change, or idea implementation.

  • Prepare together as a team: Preparing together creates a cohesiveness in your work teams, helps them bond as functioning units, keeps those involved “on the same page,” and improves coordinated efforts.
  • Celebrate together whenever possible: Don’t forget to celebrate victories and accomplishments, and even the little, day-to-day successes. Whether a pizza party for your team at the end of a tough week, or an all-out company celebration of a major achievement, people who celebrate together also seem to relate better to one another. When employees proactively support each other, they more easily resolve differences, collaborate better, and tend to tolerate each other’s idiosyncrasies more empathetically than groups that fail to take time to appreciate mutual efforts and successes.
  • Perform together to the best of each person’s abilities: A team’s diverse skills complement the whole. A good leader knows his or her employees and their capabilities, but will also encourage them to increase their skillsets, take risks and try new things.
  • Debrief together: Always review together those things that went wrong, but don’t forget to spend time reviewing what went right, as well, so that success can be replicated.


When an individual’s values and goals are not in alignment, that person will have difficulty succeeding. The same goes for a company’s employees and the business for which they work. If employee values and personal goals are not in alignment with, or are contrary to a company’s culture, chances are that individual will not be happy in the organization.


The culture of any company is its personality, reflected in its hiring decisions, company mission, work environment, communications practices, dress code, benefits, its business hours and office setup, traditions, client treatment, values, ethics, company goals, work expectations, and job promotion practices. Company culture includes the deeply embedded value and belief structure that shapes how employees interact with one another and with customers or clients, how departments support one another, and how individuals respond to demands, and react to stressful business situations.


Company culture encompasses:


  • Vision: The mission or vision statement is a constant reminder of the values of the company and its focus. The company vision, as expressed in its mission statement, articulates clearly the organization’s purpose.
  • Values: The core of company culture, values held by the company must align with the personal values of its employees for there to be a proper “fit” with the organization. Company values should be reinforced by frequent communication to all employees, authentically expressed in a cogent statement or phrase that is memorable.
  • Practices: Values-based communications and collaborative engagement should be both implicit, and explicitly exhibited by company employees at all levels of the business or organization.
  • People: It’s essential for any company to carefully construct a culture that draws interest and fosters dedication in employees who share a willingness to adopt company values, and practice them daily. Human Resources departments advertise positions and hire individuals to fill them, with an eye to how well that person can align with and adapt to the company’s mission and culture.
  • Place: Companies whose leadership wishes to encourage positive interactions between employees will generally fashion a physical environment that induces collaborative behaviors, such as an open architecture office model. Open physical surroundings subtly influence the number and types of encounters between employees, promoting discussion, team building and problem solving.
  • Leadership: Through collaborative leadership, values-based communications and inspiring others by setting a ‘best practice’ business example, leaders set the tone and direction of a company, shape the culture, and build company loyalty and dedication, motivating employees to greater performance.

Author: Kellie Stewart is an entrepreneur, consultant and equinologist. Kellie has more than 20 years of professional consulting in the leadership domain 


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