Skip to main content

Total Leadership

I was recently asked by various faculty leaders (a Dean and Department Head) to present some ideas about building teams. Based on work as ombuds and prior work in the conflict resolution field, I shared several concepts including the idea of Total Leadership. Total Leadership is based on work I did with Bill Sanford from Team Achievement in the mid 2000’s with sports teams off the field. We focused on how team members dealt with conflicts and how this impacted both their performance on and off the field.

As we worked with several sports teams, most notably the UNC Chapel Hill women’s soccer team (winners of 22 National Championships), we started thinking about what makes an extraordinary team that performs at a high level. The answer was total leadership.

Total leadership is based on a three part idea: that teams have general norms of behavior that everyone does all the time, has formal leaders that includes some of the people some of the time, and the idea that to be extraordinary, you need everyone to be a leader at different times and in different ways. You establish a culture of Total Leadership.

Total Leadership is based on the idea that if people believe there are opportunities to be a leader, albeit at different times and in different ways, then they will be willing to continuously contribute at a very high level. They will continuously “step up” their participation and performance.

To establish a Total Leadership culture, one must invite it, nurture it, and celebrate it. One must create opportunities for anyone to lead (in different ways and at different times). If people don’t think they can be a leader, then they won’t step up and the team will not be extraordinary.

How does one support Total Leadership in the workplace? You invite new ideas. You celebrate feedback. You share process with your team to empower performance. You don’t micro manage. The list goes on if you think from this framework – how do I as leader, manager, supervisor invite my team members to lead?