Global Response Teams of Leaders

Global Teams and Global Challenges

The intent to provide a meaningful, working approach to the global economic, political, social and health problems is a challenge often spoken about, but rarely addressed in a truly effective manner. 

ToL addresses this challenge by offering a structured, proven method of developing not only the spirit, but also the practice of cooperation and collaboration among disparate, often conflicting governmental and corporate organizations involved in some of the most daunting national and international challenges.  ToL was developed by the US Army to face the new set of global missions centered on close cooperation with military and civilian authorities involved in nation building, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief, and development of national stability in conflict or disaster-ravaged regions of the world.  ToL has been operationally tested by the US European Command (EUCOM) and Army Europe, and is now being adapted for civilian operations by the Center for Collaborative Leadership in Healthcare.

Apart from the destruction they cause, events such as the earthquakes in Haiti or China, floods or heat waves in Europe, or hurricane Katrina, have another common element: stress, often massive, applied to healthcare systems and health services delivery in the affected regions.  They are often unprepared for operations in which “steady state” activities are nearly entirely disrupted.  Effective cooperation and collaboration among agencies/organizations participating in development of both preparedness and resilience, and in disaster response and recovery, have been shown repetitively to be the essential elements of success.  Despite elaborate preparedness plans though, we continue to fail. 

In the end, it is not the plan to work together that is essential, but the practical ability to do so that assures success.

The Center for Collaborative Command and Leadership aims to assist through research, education, and training in ToL the practical ability to work together, build effective high performing teams, and achieve consistent success despite often extreme austerity and hardship characteristic of post-disaster environments. 


The modern world operates as a tightly coupled environment.  The near-complete functional interdependence of individual components of such a “system of systems” is not only the source of global efficiency, but also the principal source of catastrophic global failures. The complexity of such a system results in its highly unstable equilibrium: failure of one constituent induces destructive reverberations within the entire environment.  Unless promptly addressed and eliminated, the reverberations will rapidly overcome the ability of the system to resist and adapt. The progressively increasing loss of equilibrium will induce further, exceedingly destructive and potentially irreversible consequences affecting not one but many, maybe even all, of its components.  It will be a transboundary event, with transboundary consequences.

Maintaining equilibrium of a tightly-coupled system, and prevention of destabilizing events can be attained only through the closest possible cooperation and collaboration of all involved actors, executed across the entire spectrum of professional and political domains, and based on unity of purpose to consolidate and guide all efforts.

The goal of responding to complex challenges is to reduce output variability in an environment of high input variability - to strive to impose order upon chaos. However, operations conducted in complex, transboundary environments such as mega-scale crises or disasters are associated with unavoidable unpredictability and uncertainty.  Inherent to all such events is their constantly changing dynamic nature creating the demand for accurate and timely knowledge that can be acquired only through horizontal and vertical interactions among all participants in which internal and external knowledge resources of the responding organizations are pooled through appropriate information (IM) and knowledge management (KM) processes.

In transboundary environments, the processes of knowledge extraction and expertise identification, conversion, analysis, and employment - the foundation of the successful execution of all activities - are complicated by the participation of a large number of governmental, corporate, and often political entities with different hierarchies, cultures, and modes of operation. 

THE SOLUTION: Teams of Leaders

The concept of Teams of Leaders (ToL) emerged as the result of collaborative challenges faced by the US Army and the many US government agencies that must work effectively to solve complex problems.  The development of ToL has been enabled by the explosive growth of information management systems (IM) and knowledge management (KM) processes and strategies and their increasingly rapid penetration in society.  For the first time a concept emerged that intimately bound technology, effective processes for virtual collaboration and people, and multiplied the power of each with a simple approach to deliberately form and launch teams. Once learned, this approach becomes more of a mindset than a procedure and helps teams of leaders from disparate organizations find common purpose, build trust and team competencies and generate the confidence to tackle bigger and tougher challenges.

Today ToL represents a revolutionary approach to collaboration and cooperation among people and bureaucratic entities in both military and civilian organizations. Shared trust and confidence are the natural consequence of the process of team building.  The principal social outcome of this process is transformation of loosely interconnected experts into a closely knit High Performing Leader Team (HPLT). Through a network of rapidly growing vertical and horizontal connections, individual HPLTs can interact with each other and collaborate across boundaries of organizations, functions, levels, and culture. In the end, as the cross-pollination among HPLTs intensifies, the most fundamental aspect of any collaborative effort emerges – the condition and state of actionable understanding.  


In essence, implementation of the ToL concept increases transboundary mission understanding, enhances mission focus, and reduces inter-organizational friction and bureaucratic parochialism – all of which are well known elements that reduce utility of efforts centered on prevention, preparation for, and response to any mega-disaster.  Implementation of ToL-based processes reduces output variability, maximizes utility of effort, and focuses operational efforts on strategic rather than minor, often largely  inconsequential, goals.

ToL offers cardinal advantages in disaster operations:

  • It fosters transboundary HPLT collaboration
  • It creates the environment of cooperating Teams of Leaders unified by shared, mission-oriented, actionable understanding.
  • It provides the critical foundation for the development of effective crisis and disaster preparedness at all levels.
  • Operationally, ToL-based practices allow near-immediate generation of task-oriented “action swarms” and task-focused implementation of “just-in-time” solutions.
  • ToL serves both as a “soft” and “hard” force multiplier in the development of organizational, multi-organizational, and community resilience.
  • In collaborative environments involving a wide range of independent actors, ToL introduces two overriding  elements of successful joint operations: actionable understanding and unity of purpose.

These attributes help ToL-centered entities collaborate and communicate more effectively. They anticipate potential crises, rapidly detect their initial blind spots, develop effective countermeasures, rapidly make sense of the chaotic environment, form simple and effective team operating agreements.  HPLTs address problems regardless of organizational boundaries and cultures.  ToL does not impose order upon chaos; it reduces chaos by developing coherence of effort and the means of rapid containment.


Once learned, this approach becomes more of a mindset than a procedure and helps teams of leaders from disparate organizations find common purpose, build trust and team competencies and generate the confidence to tackle bigger and tougher challenges.

Lt. Gen. Frederic J. Brown, PhD, US Army (Ret.)

  Teams of Leaders