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How Collaborative Leadership Can Better You and Your Business

If you’ve ever felt alone in your attempts to guide your business toward sustainability, community development, or social change… If you’ve ever craved unique and targeted guidance for driving your business operations with purpose… If you are part of a certified BCorp, wanting to accelerate your and your company’s growth…

Collaborative leadership development could be for you.


Why do purpose-driven businesses need collaborative leadership development?

Leaders of purpose-driven organizations face unique challenges, for which guidelines and benchmarks don’t always exist. In fact, those of us working at the forefront of the conscious business movement are often creating the benchmarks as we go. While we know that the business world is evolving in our favour (just look at the rise of impact investing, the ethical consumer segment, and the success of the BCorp movement, as examples), we are still the frontrunners – the minority – and as such, it’s easy to feel alone.

As early adopters, it’s not always comfortable to admit (in a world full of naysayers), that the path forward is not entirely known.

The uncertainty of trying new things, combined with skepticism in the mainstream, can leave even the most progressive leaders hiding their challenges and vulnerabilities from public view, and pushing through on their own.

But the outlook isn’t bleak. There is so much wisdom and innovation in the purpose-driven business world, just waiting to be shared. The task of sharing it forms the basis of some of our most meaningful work at Conscious Brands – something we call collaborative leadership development. Guided by the principle that “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go further, go together”, we’ve been helping business leaders pave the way forward, cooperatively.

What does collaborative leadership look like?

Well, it’s more than attending a conference or networking session, listening to inspiring speakers or sitting down with your business coach to talk through the issues of the day. It is more than learning new skills at a workshop, and taking them back to implement, in isolation, in your business.

Going further together means a deeper, more connected approach. It means a consistent and dedicated group of leaders work together. They make a commitment to help other members grow their skills and businesses, as well as their own. It is founded in human connections, vulnerability and trust – not just tasks and techniques.

Over the past several years, Conscious Brands has drawn inspiration from our work with progressive leaders, as well as our own journey as a business, to create a unique and effective approach to collaborative development – our Spiral Table® program.

The Spiral Table program is aimed toward leaders and champions of purpose-driven organizations with the goal of building their leadership capacities, together. Meeting monthly over the course of one year in groups of 6-8, each session involves dialoguing through the most pressing challenges and opportunities of the group’s members.

The concept began as a pilot several years ago, and the original Spiral Table still going today, 7 years strong. Now, with 4 active tables, we can say with certainty that it’s been a game-changer for us and our clients – one that is ready to be offered to a broader audience.

What can it do for my business?

 1. Get focused group intelligence (6 heads are better than 1)

While the conventional business model encourages isolated innovation to carve out that competitive edge, collaborative leadership development embraces the wisdom of the group.

In this setting, businesses are able to freely share tools and practices with each other, accelerating each participant’s growth. They are also made aware of the most progressive concepts, strategies, case studies, and more, through Conscious Brands’ research and facilitation. Finally, they are given space to ‘hot seat’ their biggest challenges and opportunities with the group.

Using these venues and the power of mindful dialogue, the Spiral Table members are able to contribute to each other’s growth and success. Each Spiral Table effectively becomes it’s own senior level advisory group, sounding board, mastermind group, and idea generator for the businesses involved.

We’ve seen the benefits of this group intelligence again and again. Spiral Table helped one member turn a simple concern about their environmental impact into both a well-recognized community project and a customer appreciation initiative that is cherished by their clients, partners, and staff.

In another example, a medium-sized retailer was struggling to navigate the opportunities and push-back that came with a significant cultural change in his organization. The feedback and suggestions from Spiral Table immediately gave him the courage and tactics to take meaningful steps toward a solution. The results of these actions were critical in the company’s successful application for a highly respected management award that same year.

But these sessions go beyond a simple advice and information exchange. With regular, intimate meetings, in a thoughtfully facilitated format, the Spiral Table model creates a space of trust and vulnerability, where genuine connections and deep friendships are formed.

Rarely in the business world are we given the time, space and opportunity to open up in this way and have a group of mentors in our immediate circle. But it is this level of reflection and engagement that produces the most meaningful transformations for leaders and their businesses.

As Gary Frederich-Dunne of Bullfrog Power put it:

“I have found [the Spiral Table] sessions to be a rare and valuable opportunity to step outside of the confines of day to day business dealings, and reap the benefits of having several different, fresh perspectives on challenges. The regular ability to network and share best practices and ideas with other organizations working for good in Calgary has also been valuable.”

2. Train with consistency and accountability (good leadership takes practice)

While the monthly meetings form the backbone of this model, it’s not just about talking the talk. After poking and prodding the group to uncover issues, based on the latest and most relevant trends and topics in their leadership field, members then agree on goals and accountabilities. They commit to one another to practice, reflect on and share insights from these accountabilities at the next meeting, ultimately, putting theory into practice.

By declaring commitments to the group and having a consistent place to check in on progress, we’ve watched our clients find great success making them come to life. Of course, the dedicated facilitators help maintain this focus.

Stephanie Jackman, founder and executive direction of the REAP Sustainable Business Association sums it up nicely;

“Empowering leadership, aligning personal and professional behaviour for greater success and fulfillment, and providing a consistent and supportive place to reflect has increased my and REAP’s capacity for growth.”

 3. Follow a leadership path unique to your needs (an end to cookie-cutter coaching)

While your typical leadership development or coaching program is often rigorously structured and prescriptive in its approach (i.e. if only you do “these things” in “this order” you can achieve “that”), the collaborative approach inherently allows for the experience and results to emerge. In this context, Spiral Table members both shape – and are shaped by – the collective passion, wisdom and direction of the group.

That’s not to say there’s no structure in a Spiral Table approach – annual intentions are set, agendas are built, research is completed and shared, and meetings are conducted in a regular format. But, rather than aim for cookie-cutter outcomes, a collaborative leadership format follows the priorities that emerge from the individual participants and the collective group.

Naturally, the focus evolves over time as the needs and insights of the group evolve. The result is a set of topics, learning strategies and accountabilities perfectly suited and unique to each group. No two Spiral Tables walk away with the same content, but all walk away with greater confidence, understanding, and ideas to support their leadership paths. It is this unique support that allows members to be the best they can be, in the world and for the world.

Bruce Martin, General Manager of Community Natural Foods has said:

“Conscious Brands [through the Spiral Table program]…has inspired, reinforced and guided me over the last 5 years as I have endevoured to understand Sustainability and to accelerate my knowledge and actions on the subject. The result has been an incredible reward. Greater confidence and understanding of what is right; a much greater circle of like-minded business people to reinforce me; and from the changes in our business that seems to be irresistible to our customers.”


Collaborative leadership development holds enormous potential for purpose-driven businesses to “go further together”. The vulnerability, insight and chemistry of this unique approach could hold the key to solving the challenges and creating the benchmarks of the new economy.

Interested in joining a peer-to-peer learning environment to help you integrate new economy practices into your business? Contact us: matt@consciousbrands.com

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