The Importance of Alliances as a Leader

by  Jason Biggers  |  Self Leadership

Alliances are a key part of what a leader does. They are critical whether you are an employee, business owner, consultant, or volunteer. Alliances provide a network of trusted sources. Skilled leaders build diverse teams for success and do not work in a vacuum. In my blog post, Keys to Successful Leadership, I briefly touch on the importance of alliances. I want to expand on my thoughts and define how I build key alliances. Any person can follow this process no matter what their job in a company or group.

Find Key Stakeholders

An important impact on your leadership success is the ability to find stakeholders. Look up your chain of leadership, down to those you lead, and across to your peers. Important people work in all aspects of your group or company structure. There are two types of allies often overlooked: those who report to you and those on your peer level. Creating connections in more directions allows you to create stronger alliances through more communication. More communication means a more informed organization and a better chance of success over the long term.

Engage With a Purpose

Once you have found the right people the engagement process begins. Define your purpose. A strong sense of purpose provides a solid footing from which to form a winning alliance. Frame your approach to others with a win-win solution. Support is often easier to gain when you are offering to help solve someone else’s problem. Remember to keep an attitude of collaboration. You are not simply pointing out a problem needing to be resolved .

Grow Your Base

Leaders should not become content with their initial effort. Alliances take consistent growth to keep momentum. Too often we engage effectively with one or two supporters of our idea. The result is a shallow root system that will cause the alliance to fail. Tim Milburn has an excellent post on what living in the tent of discontent. The post includes an exercise to help you discover your own areas of healthy discontent.

Let me provide a practical example of building alliances that I use on a regular basis. I tend to set up partnership meetings between my team and other departments. The meetings offer the best atmosphere to build an alliance. I reach out to key people who understand the interactions of our immediate teams. We then extend an invitation outside of the core group to grow our base. No two alliances, like fingerprints, are alike and there is no one right way to build them.

How do you identify, engage, and grow your key alliances?

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What People Are Saying

Dr. Ada  |  28 Aug 2012  |  Reply

I agree with you that alliances are key for leaders. As I said in my last blog post, which coincidentally was also on relationship building, “Relationship building is one of the most important leadership activity you can engage on. Your influence goes only as far as the quality of your relationships.” (

In my work with organizations the weakest link many times is alliances between departments, with peers that many times you need to interact with. For some reason, it seems easier for leaders to think on developing relationships with their direct reports and their boss. Yet, they tend to forget that many times their success at work depends on the cooperation of their peers.

Thanks for a great post!

Jason Biggers  |  28 Aug 2012  |  Reply

Dr. Ada,

You have a great post as well and thank you for comment. It has always been interesting to me that the people we are most transparent with, our peers, are often the last we build relationships with to create effective teams. You honed in the key attribute of being genuine to create the foundation for building lasting cooperative relationships as a leader.

Karin Hurt  |  31 Aug 2012  |  Reply

I agree completely about the idea of growing a strong base, and not over relying on a few. That will also give you varied and differing perspectives as well as support.

Jason Biggers  |  03 Sep 2012  |  Reply

A strong foundation and diverse perspectives build the strongest teams. If we only look to those we report to as our barometer for success then the leadership we can offer is minimized. A broad base of support allows for much greater success and personal leadership.

Alan Derek Utley  |  02 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Good post. I’ve also heard an Alliance referred to as a “Personal Board of Directors” as it relates to your personal effectiveness. This is a group of close trusted advisors who are transparent and give it to you straight. No hidden agendas. No fear of reprisal. They help you see your blind spots, offer different perspectives, and listen when you need a sounding board. Sometimes this is a coach or mentor, or it can be a former colleague, or even a professional contact with whom you’ve never directly worked. These personal alliances can prove to be very useful in ensuring you are successful in forming and managing your business alliances.

Jason Biggers  |  03 Sep 2012  |  Reply

Thanks, Alan. The distinction I make is really about unifying people across diverse teams to create success. A Personal Board of Directors is certainly a powerful tool to have in your arsenal. The difference is that a Personal Board of Directors is meant to be a core group of trusted people who meet on a regular basis for mutual honest feedback and success. Creating alliances that work within organizations is about creating synergy between teams at a broader level. One similar key element is the identification of those stakeholders that may hold the same traits as a member of your Personal Board of Directors.

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