Chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11 deal with team leadership and topics of particular importance to team leaders. This chapter moves one level higher in the organization to deal with team sponsorship, including the sponsor's most important responsibility, designing teams.
As discussed in Chapter 8, the leader of a team creates the enabling conditions for the team, develops the team, and coaches it. But the leader does not create the team. The leader's role comes to life only after the team has been created. And for the team to exist, it must have been designed, that is, the purpose, initial composition, and leader of the team must have been designated by someone (or some committee) who has the authority to create the team. This designer-creator we call the sponsor. The sponsor also has functions to perform after the team has been designed, as discussed below.
The interaction between the leader and the sponsor is crucial to the team's success. Their linkage personifies the connection between the team and the larger organization. The leader represents the team in this linkage, and the sponsor represents the larger organization. The leader is accountable to the sponsor, and sponsor has duties of support and guidance to the leader. The leader is obliged to keep the sponsor informed about how the team is faring. The sponsor is obliged to keep the leader informed about conditions in the larger organization and beyond. The 2 roles are closely bound but distinct.
Only in very small organizations does the distinction between leader and sponsor collapse. For example, a freestanding medical practice of 4 urologists, physician assistants, and other staff is a single team. The team is the whole organization, and so the leader of the medical practice fulfills not only the leadership functions but also the sponsorship functions. If the urologists, physician assistants, and others were a department in a medical group, the sponsor would be another person in the larger medical group.
The word sponsor has a variety of meanings in discussions of teams and management in general. Sometimes the word is used to imply that the sponsor provides funding for an endeavor. Sometimes the word is meant to imply that the sponsor represents the interests of a team or project within the circle of senior leadership in the organization. And sometimes someone is labeled sponsor because she or he has taken responsibility for an initiative or some other project. In contrast to all of these uses, we use the word sponsor to designate the person who supervises the leader. Yet, to say that the sponsor is the leader's supervisor is not quite accurate because the sponsor does not oversee, direct, or inspect the leader except in a very general way. The team sponsor's role is more similar to that of a coach or authoritative adviser than it is to the role of a conventional supervisor.