Teams of Leaders (ToL) is a method for rapidly building and effectively employing cross-boundary High Performing Leader Teams (HPLTs) unified by their shared capacity to learn and adapt together, and to make and execute decisions based on actionable understanding™ shared among collaborating teams under pressure of complex, rapidly changing operational environments. HPLTs involved in the definition of missions and strategies based on shared actionable understanding perform as Collaborating Command Teams™.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TEAMS OF LEADERS APPROACH
The concept of Teams of Leaders has been developed by the US Army to help it to interact with the civilian world of the post-Cold War era, and to promote utilization of the immense intellectual, business, and logistics capabilities of the Army in the service of the civilian authorities. In addition, the ToL concept served to strengthen the existing relationships with the long-standing allies of the US, and to form new ones with the large number of rapidly emerging partners.
The original goal of the Teams of Leaders concept was to fill the structural gap in situations where a single authority and a single shared purpose were typically either unclear, subject to external manipulation, or entirely absent. Hence, the driving force behind the Teams of Leaders approach was the wish to promote an environment that builds common understanding, and develops mutual trust and confidence among a wide variety of professional, organizational, and national teams forced to act jointly in the often turbulent setting of the contemporary political, economic, and social world.
Ultimately, ToL policies, programs and practices were found to be equally applicable across both the military and civilian governmental, non-governmental, and corporate entities acting in the joint, inter-agency, inter-governmental, and multinational (JIIM) setting of globalized activities. The transition of ToL from the military to the civilian sphere of activities was largely afforded through the work of the Center for Collaborative Command and Leadership (CCCL, formerly Center for Collaborative Leadership in Healthcare - CCLH). Presently, the ToL concept serves as the unique and exceptionally well suited tool in the development of collaboration among entities involved in missions executed at all levels of the civil society and of the corporate world.
What makes Teams of Leaders different?
The Teams of Leaders concept is radically different from currently used methods to build leaders within hierarchical organizational structures. ToL provides a deliberate approach to forming and launching collaborative, cross-boundary High Performing Leader Teams capable of close cooperation and collaboration across boundaries of organizations, cultures, and professions. Whenever required, ToL-based HPLTs are highly capable to define organizational missions and lead their execution. Such Collaborative Command Leader Teams™ offer a particular advantage in all activities of large, often globally distributed organizations involved in complex tasks, by facilitating mission execution at the local level, coordinating it with global organizational strategies, and improving communication among all involved actors.
ToL is mission-focused. The task execution of a shared mission is based on the concept of actionable understanding™, i.e., the state that defines the final, binding and shared parameters of the mission and its purpose, the form and pattern of its execution, the allotment of tasks, responsibilities for task execution and coordination within the mission, timelines of performance and its milestones, the nature of interaction, and the rules of conduct accepted and shared within individual Teams and among all collaborating High Performing Leader Teams. The state of actionable understanding is the common effector pathway of all ToL-based interactions.
ToL represents a completely new approach to leadership that is well suited to high tempo activities in environments of increasing complexity, where uncertainty and unpredictably are the norm rather than the exception, and where success is contingent on the closest possible collaboration of all actors involved in the operation.
THE TEAMS OF LEADERS ADVANTAGE
Consistent use of the ToL approach assures High Performing Leader Teams rapidly acquire the critical competitive advantage: situational awareness. The acquisition is not only rapid, but also continuously updated; the teams are granted an unprecedented, shared, real-time understanding of all nuances of the situation in which they operate. Consequent to the shared understanding is the subsequent clear and equally shared perception of all immediate and forthcoming operational requirements that are or may be demanded by the Teams’ drive to success.
Rapid development of situational awareness is generated and supported by the shared purpose, trust and confidence that are the essential trait of intensely collaborating and collaborative High Performing Leader Teams. The transcending state of actionable understanding™ is the output of all interactions within individual and among all participating Teams: it is the final pathway of a closely orchestrated collaborative effort in which focused execution of all tasks, and the elevated speed and quality of performance guarantee the complete success in the achievement of the predetermined goal.
The ToL approach has proven its validity and value in successfully improving the output generated by hierarchical (vertical) and in peer-to-peer (horizontal) teams within the same organization as much as in cross boundary environments, i.e. where activities are spread across independent agencies, corporate entities, or departments either within the same geographical/national region or internationally, across the globe.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE TEAMS OF LEADERS ENVIRONMENT
ToL has three components: people -the core component of high performing leader teams, and the enablers, information management (IM) and knowledge management (KM). The first, and the most critical element, “People” consists of High Performing Leader Teams (HPLT). The other two components, IM and KM provide the “operational grease” of ToL.
The IM component makes ToL virtual and networked, whether team members are co-located or dispersed throughout the world. The KM component focuses on the activities directly related to people: the operating procedures, business, and learning processes required of an advanced learning environment in order to build the critical shared skills, knowledge and attitudes - shared vision, shared trust, shared confidence, shared competence.
While technology is intimately intertwined with the people aspect of ToL, it is the synergy emerging from the tightly intertwined interaction of the three components that provides the integral and indispensible constituent of the ToL approach. Technology becomes an enabler of change and action rather than merely a popular and largely mis-utilized fad or a reluctantly faced necessity.
The identification, creation, organization and transfer of knowledge in a deliberate and meaningful way, facilitated through consistent use of technology, fertilizes the formation and launching of the leader teams and the development of critical shared skills, knowledge and attitudes that bind individual team members into highly collaborative entities.
TRAINING TEAMS OF LEADERS
Building shared skills (behaviors), knowledge, and attitudes drives high levels of adaptive leader-team performance. This leader-team development requires a significant foundation of experiential learning based on repeated, coached and deliberate practice through Leader Team Development Exercises or LTXs. Like all training exercises, LTXs are structured to provide for continuous retention and mastery of acquired skills, while continuously introducing new ones. Through the pattern of ongoing activities, HPLT members are prepared for activities which are performed in environments of increasing complexity. Initially, LTXs are executed under the direction of highly trained coaches/mentors. Ultimately, however, the proficiency level of individual Teams and Team associations reaches the level at which LTXs can be executed by the Teams themselves. At this stage, ToL coaches/trainers become ”on demand” advisors and mentors.