Should You Compete With Your Adversaries?

Heneka Watkis-Porter

27 July 2018

All leaders have a desire to succeed, both in performance and in overall well-being. At times, it seems as though we’ve been wired to achieve such mastery via intense rivalry. Competition, even for the basic necessities of life—water, air, food and space—comes naturally to us. But the competition for markets, political leadership, athletic rivalry and executive positions can be vicious, intimidating and challenging. 

Competitiveness isn’t a bad thing; nothing is inherently wrong with it. It provides us with motivation and reason to improve our performance, and also improves both social and emotional intelligence; these are necessary components of cementing relationships as you gain understanding about the type of leader you are and insight about others. Awareness of self will lead to a firmer grip of the core principles of leadership such as empathy and vulnerability, and how to embrace failures as a necessary path en route to success.

Despite its benefits, competition can be tiring and distracting. Occasionally, we internalize the theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ to mean we must win at all cost—even at the hands of others. Servant leadership teaches us this is no way to lead others. 

It’s healthy to have a competitive spirit in the right setting, but competition doesn’t always serve as the best option. A viable alternative, which to many may be seen as counterintuitive, is to be collaborative. When we are able to work jointly with our adversary on a project or activity, it creates harmony and balance, and can further us on our mission.

But, "They are my competition,” you might say. Collaborating with an opponent is not a new phenomenon. Siemens and Philips, for example, worked together to develop semiconductors and, back in the day, Canon sold photocopiers to Kodak. Strategic alliances can fortify the positions of otherwise competing companies in the marketplace. A fitting African proverb reminds us: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Below are eight benefits of collaboration you can enjoy as a leader.

1. Collaboration creates synergy: the whole becomes greater than the sum of the individual parts. When you pool resources, you get way more than if you utilize the resource of just one. It’s logical.

2. It improves individual productivity. We are oftentimes limited by what we already know. Learning new skills that we can apply to our daily work gives us the tools that are imperative to improving our output.

3. It transfers knowledge. Teaming up with others on initiatives creates a platform to increase our knowledge base, making us more aware and exposed to new information.

4. It develops open-mindedness. Many times solving a problem requires out-of-the-box thinking. A famous Albert Einstein quote reminds us, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” When minds come together, an environment for us to be open to doing things differently is fostered, enabling us to get remarkable results.

5. It minimizes risk. There is always the possibility of exposure to risks when you embark on a project of any kind. This likelihood increases exponentially the larger a project gets. These may vary anywhere from time-related, technical, financial or performance risks. Working with others multiplies these resources and therefore lessens the burden to any one party. 

6. It expands community. The delightful thing about life is that we get to be part of communities that are larger than our immediate surroundings. Consider living in Germany and being able to work with someone living in Jamaica. Immediately, your network expands as you not only are connected to your collaborative partner, but ultimately your partner’s connections and connections of theirs as well.

7. It engages team members. Collaboration is certainly not limited to working with others externally. It is necessary, and very effective when employed within your own organization. It is no secret that team members can easily become disengaged at work, especially if they’ve been with the organization for a long time. Developing a culture of collaboration among members within and across departments reinforces the vision and gets people excited about being part of the process.      

8. It strengthens your mission. There is strength in numbers. When there is a collaborative approach to bringing an issue to the forefront for a desired result, the outcome is usually more favorable compared to going the road alone.

Collaboration is definitely the way to go to achieve better outcomes. Be intentional about seeking out opportunities to partner on various initiatives. It is well worth the time it takes to build relationships with collaborative partners.


Heneka Watkis-Porter

Heneka Watkis-Porter is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and host of The Entrepreneurial You podcast. She is founder and CEO of Patwa Culcha International, which owns the authentic Jamaica clothing brand, Patwa Apparel. Heneka is also the creator of the Caribbean’s first virtual conference and expo: The Entrepreneurial You Virtual SME Conference & Expo and Host Site leader for Leadercast Women.

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