Leading Together: Foundations of Collaborative Leadership for the Classroom

ISBN: 978-1-885473-79-0
SIZE: 8.5 x 11
PRICE $39.95

“Part of the genius of collaborative leadership lies in its faith in the wisdom and judgment of the group as a whole.  The secret is to create an environment that encourages all to participate, to be mindful of one’s role as a group member, and to remember that learning about collaborative leadership is a process of never-ending growth.”

Here is a curriculum for teaching the possibilities of leadership embedded in colaboration.  Students learn how the strengths of relationships—the power of people working together—can make change, achieve goals, and help them meet the challenges they face.  If you want to join others in leading differently­—if you wish to learn the fundamentals for getting something done, this book is for you!

Leading Together provides a thorough and straightforward foundation for teaching the roles and responsibilities of collaborative leadership in the classroom, grades 8 – 12.  Teachers will find concrete ways to directly address and focuses on these complex skills as they move through the lessons contained in this book.  The exercises, readings, and activities are intended not only to be completed, but also to be reflected upon.  Many students of leadership behavior have noted that the best way to develop leadership skills and values is to reflect on one’s own experience. That is certainly true of this curriculum on collaborative leadership.


“I find it an excellent resource, particularly for those who work closely with students as advisors and counselors, with peer mentoring and orientation programs, and with students in outdoor leadership and challenge courses. Leading Together is an especially useful curriculum for creating student-directed teams that can make good group decisions and plan expeditions effectively, resolve conflicts, successfully deal with crises, and, in the end, lead other students well. The material presented in this curriculum integrates much of the latest research on how students learn most effectively, including ‘backwards design.’”
Chris Michaud, Outdoor Leadership, Kent Denver School

“Laurie Frank is a master facilitator! With the help of Carlin and Christ, she has created a wonderful journey through the collaborative leadership process. Their prose is filled with pointers, possibility, and purpose. From the classroom to the workshop to their wider world, this book will work for your group. Leading Together will soon be the new standard for Leadership in schools. It offers tremendous resources for new as well as veteran facilitators.”
Matt Nink, Executive Director, Global Youth Leadership Institute

“This breakthrough curriculum helps learners experience how to care in a way that develops persons able to be responsible for one another… able to rebuild the spirit of community. The processes in this curriculum helps individuals call forth the best from themselves and from one another in ways that create a shared leadership model—persons working together to find a better way. This guide/curriculum gives me great hope. Sophia Foundations is honored to support this generative learning curriculum for a better world.”
Virginia L. Gilmore, President, Sophia Foundation, Inc.

“With lots of useful theory, tools, and activities in one book, this resource is the roadmap for experiential educators to guide their students on the path of learning. The detailed lessons are laid out in a sequential progression which culminates with students reflecting on their own collaborative skills—true experiential learning.”
Mark Rose, Co-author of Teams for a New Generation: A Facilitator’s Field Guide

“I am very impressed. There are many activities and discussion guides that can be put into use immediately. The activities involve both critical and creative thinking and are designed to draw leadership potential out of students. Activities are a mix to cover the range from outgoing personality to quiet and reflective. The book is well laid out and clear. It presents the activities and questions clearly and could be quickly implemented in a classroom. I am the director of an Upward Bound pre-college program for high school students and this book will be an excellent resource for my program.”
Joyce Atkins, MSE, Director of Upward Bound, Moraine Park Technical College, Fond du Lac, WI

Excerpt from the Book


When John Stanley called and asked if I might be interested in being a partner in developing his vision for a leadership program for youth at Camp Manito-wish, I wasn’t sure if I should accept or run as fast and as far as possible in the other direction. As with many people, my baggage around the idea of leadership lay in the lessons learned as a child, best summed up on a common t-shirt message: “If you are not the lead dog, the view is always the same.” I grew up believing that leaders are loud, charismatic people who find a parade and jump in front of it. Although I had been collaborating with people all my life, I had not entertained the notion that leadership could, in fact, be shared. Here I was in my late 30’s and I was being told that leadership could be undertaken in groups, where people can use their strengths in a dance of give-and-take, and where everyone is seen as equal and contributing members. Now this I could get into. This idea of collaborative leadership was right up my alley.

After 15 years of collaboration with John and the folks on the board of the Wisconsin Leadership Institute, I have a new appreciation for the possibilities of leadership embedded in collaboration. Leadership, in this sense is about how the individual acts out leadership opportunities in the social context. It is about using the strength of relationships—the power of people working together—to make change, achieve goals, and simply get things done. The core of collaborative leadership lies in the following foundational beliefs:
• Everybody has the capacity to lead. Leadership can be learned. People can lead in all parts of their lives—families, business, community, church groups, athletic teams, camps or clubs—there are many opportunities for leadership. This idea runs counter to the stereotype of leadership where one must be special, elected, or appointed in order to be a leader.
• Increasingly, leadership will come not from a position of authority, but from within a group. As our world expands and becomes more complex, there is a trend toward decentralization. It is imperative that young people gain skills to operate in small groups and as members of teams.
• Leadership takes place within the context of relationships. Collaboration is more than working together. It involves pooling the strengths of all individuals in order to create something that could not be accomplished alone. In order to truly collaborate, it is essential to build trust between the individuals in the group.
• In order to learn how to lead, one must have the opportunity to lead. Learning to lead is an experiential process, requiring skills that take practice. Talking about leadership is not enough. People must have opportunities to practice leadership in a safe environment, where they can learn from their mistakes.
• Leadership involves risk taking. Choosing to step up, give an opinion, try new ideas, and listen to those with whom one disagrees are acts of risk taking. Therefore, young people need opportunities to examine their own beliefs and reactions around the taking of risks.
• Leadership requires an action orientation. There is a subtle difference between being a leader and not being a leader. It involves stepping forward—taking the initiative—looking for what needs to be done, and being willing to do it. Leadership also entails modeling.
• Learning to be a leader is a lifelong journey that begins with the question, “What is leadership?” Everyone defines what leadership means for him or herself, and this definition can change over time as one becomes more aware and experienced with the idea of collaborative leadership.

Bill McKibben, who wrote the book Deep Economy, spent a year watching every show he could find from cable television. In an interview on radio’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge” he shared his learning from that experience:
The central message of the consumer culture in which we live is: You’re the most impor- tant thing on earth. You’re the heaviest object in the universe and everything orbits around you. And we’ve enshrined this idea as “human nature.” Not remembering that most people in most places have had other things very near the center of their identity—the tribe, the community, their relationship with the natural world, or the Divine—something that gave them more of a sense of identity not obsessively rooted in themselves.*
It may be that collaborative leadership runs counter to the dominant message in the United States. It may also be that learning to lead collaboratively can bring us, and our youth, back in touch with the “other,” and expand each person’s world outside of his or her immediate domain. And it may be that collaborative leadership, by harnessing the varied strengths of those within the various groups is one of the answers to bringing the world back from the brink of disaster from global warming, genocide, famine, and a host of other worldwide ills. Who knows? We certainly have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The best part is that our youth can grow up to be part of the solution.

Laurie Frank
August 2008

Table of Contents

Comparisons Between Traditional and Collaborative Leadership Behaviors
Thinking It Over: The Role of Reflection
Roles and Responsibilities of Collaborative Leaders
Unit 1: What is Collaboration?
Develop Group Cohesion
Recognize Diversity Within the Group
Differentiate Between Cooperation and Collaboration
Use a Variety of Skills and Tools for Collaboration
Apply Collaborative Skills
Unit 2: What is Leadership?
Creating Community
Compose a Personal Definition of Leadership
Compare and Contrast the Notions That Leaders are Born and/or Made
Explore Different Views of Leadership
Analyze the Roles of Risk Taking and Long-Term Vision When Leading
Construct a Vision of an Ideal Leader
Unit 3: What is Collaborative Leadership?
Continue to Intentionally Build and Maintain a Safe Working Environment
Assess Personal Collaborative Leadership Values
Use Collaborative Leadership Qualities and Values
Practice Effective Use of Collaborative
Leadership Core Values and Qualities
Appendix A: Activities
Appendix B: Journal Questions
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