Find the ‘bridgers’

Ten Lessons on multi-stakeholder partnerships, Lesson 4

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a different type of leadership is required to make partnerships work

We have come to recognize that there is a different type of leadership that is required to make partnerships work. “Command and control” leadership often is not relevant or effective in contexts where what is required is to harmonize different stakeholders with different interests and worldviews. Synergos has developed a leadership paradigm, called Bridging Leadership, suited for working across boundaries, sectors and cultures.

The following chart outlines the differences between command and control leadership and bridging leadership:

Each of our main partnerships has been guided and facilitated by leaders with the bridging characteristics described above. Our effort in Namibia, for example, was led by an extraordinary bridging leader named Len le Roux. Before joining the initiative, Mr. le Roux had worked for 20 years as the director of Namibia’s largest corporate foundation. He came to us with excellent relationships with senior government officials, the Namibian corporate community and with the NGO sector. He has a remarkable ability to speak the language of all sectors and to communicate across boundaries. Largely because of these abilities and because of his credibility as a trusted Namibian leader guiding a Namibian partnership, our effort was able to secure the participation of a diverse set of partners.

Like Namibia, our partnerships in Canada, Ethiopia, and India have all been led and staffed by local leaders, people with remarkable bridging skills and legitimacy within their culture and context. In addition to staffing each of the partnerships with these ‘bridging leaders’ we have also dedicated considerable effort to building the capacity of partners and local organizations to work effectively across sectors.

Ten Lessons on Multi-stakeholder Partnerships draws from Synergos’ experience helping to create sustainable solutions to complex development problems at scale.