Elements of Successful Partnership

Exploring the keys to successful partnerships directs us to contemporary management theories. Many management theorists suggest that partnerships are one of the most effective leadership models for today’s economy. Partnerships go beyond collaboration or coordination of resources and skills by engaging an intra-dependent relationship. Simply put, “In partnerships, two or more entities or people come together for mutual benefit (Giesecke, p. 39).” Whether partners determine benefits to include profit, reputation, credibility, or other objectives, there are dynamics that must be in place. Those include common goals; risks and rewards that are real and shared; specified period of time; and a written agreement (Grant, 2010). The Gallup Corporation developed a Gallup Partnership Rating Scale based on 7 subscales that measure the following: common mission, fairness, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, communication, and unselfishness (Giesecke, 2012). Applying the Gallup analysis is useful to measure existing partnerships and to serve as a framework for developing partnerships.

In “Telling Truthful Stories,” Stephen Denning places a prime focus on trust for building and keeping successful partnerships. He encourages trust-building behaviors by, “. . . showing real concern, revealing vulnerability, sharing something of value, meshing, and a willingness to learn (p. 127).” Whether maintaining a current partnership or developing new partnerships, the steps to good partnering include fundamental similarities.   Likewise, the culture of partnerships uniquely embraces the acknowledgement of, “We need each other.” “Reciprocity – the give and take of information, the leveling of power relations, the sharing of vulnerability – allows and enables professionals to enter a deeper place of learning and being (Robertson, p. 55).” That dynamic gives permission for partners to be both leader and follower. Exemplary followers are proven critical thinkers who add value to their environment, work as a partner, and “. . . cultivate a courageous conscience (Hackman & Johnson, p. 59).” Returning Giesecke’s definition that includes mutual benefit, the principles of leadership and followership promote a dynamic of partners engaging one another to the advantage of each/both.

A primary key to successful partnership is the ability to be holistic in its delivery of services. By holistic, this writer refers to the intricate details of conducting business. An example is Deloitte Consulting. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the company spokesperson explained their success has “. . . a foundation based on strength, stability, and innovation (McCartney, p. 34).” Within the realm of their strength is noted to include the strategy of taking on the less-glamorous (details) of the supporting areas for their clients (McCartney, 2000). Partnerships take on an identity and personalize the participants through their business activity serves. That is a direct benefit to their customers / stakeholders. Partnerships epitomize the definition of great leadership as, “. . . the product of context plus the personal characteristics of the leader . . . (Hackman & Johnson, p. 78).”

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you may help them to become what they are capable of being. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Hackman & Johnson, p. 46).”



Denning, S.J. (2007). The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leadersh Inspire Action Through Narrative. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Giesecke, J. (2012, January). The value of partnerships: Building new partnerships for success. Journal of Library Administration, 52(1), 36-52. DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2012.629964.

Grant, C. (2010, March). A partnership for creating successful partnerships. Information Technology & Libraries, 29(1), 5-7. Retrieved from Ebscohost.

Hackman, M.Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A Communication Perspective, 6th ed., Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

McCartney, L. (2000, October 9). Deloitte Consulting riding high. Inter@ctive Week, 7(41), 34. Retrieved from Ebscohost.

Robertson, J. (2010). Learning through partnership: Challenging ways of seeing, being, knowing. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 4(12), 53-60. Retrieved from Ebscohost.


About Dr. Kathy Williams

I am an adjunct faculty member at Harrison Business College. I am a full-time Chaplain in a men's correctional facility. I am the founder of New Day Community Ministries, Inc. and the most recent venture with New Day Consulting.
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