Boundary Spanning

What is Boundary Spanning?

Boundary spanning is defined as a leadership practice that involves mediating between groups separated by location, hierarchy or function to link internal networks with external sources of information and expertise, and encourage collaboration (Beck et al, 2012; Williams, 2002).

In PPPs, collaboration can be a very fragile process, and the use of boundary spanning can optimize connections between partner teams and organizations, fostering closer, more integrated relationships. Boundary spanning as a leadership practice can align the goals of different partners around a shared purpose to encourage mutual commitment.

Collaborative Leaders as Boundary Spanners

Getting value from diverse contributors is at the heart of the collaborative leader’s task. By going back and forth across organizational boundaries, boundary spanners foster trust and reduce risk through open communication and joint decision-making. They represent their own organization while developing empathetic relations with their counterparts in partner organizations, and learn to negotiate in non-hierarchical decision environments.

Acting as network catalysts, entrepreneurs, facilitators and mediators, boundary spanners apply collaborative skills and strategic thinking to the resolution of complex problems, often dealing with disparate bodies of technical knowledge and professional expertise. Boundary spanners respect and value the differences of a partner, while being able to smooth out some of those differences in the interests of making the relationship work more efficiently.