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Team sponsors in community-based health leadership programs

Tracy Enright Patterson (Global Research and Evaluation, Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Donna R. Dinkin (Dinkin and Associates LLC, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Heather Champion (Global Research and Evaluation, Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this article is to share the lessons learned about the role of team sponsors in action-learning teams as part of community-based health leadership development programs.


This case study uses program survey results from fellow participants, action learning coaches and team sponsors to understand the value of sponsors to the teams, the roles they most often filled and the challenges they faced as team sponsors.


The extent to which the sponsors were perceived as having contributed to the work of the action learning teams varied greatly from team to team. Most sponsors agreed that they were well informed about their role. The roles sponsors most frequently played were to provide the teams with input and support, serve as a liaison to the community and serve as a sounding board, motivator and cheerleader. The most common challenges or barriers team sponsors faced in this role were keeping engaged in the process, adjusting to the role and feeling disconnected from the program.

Practical implications

This work provides insights for program developers and community foundations who are interested in building the capacity for health leadership by linking community sponsors with emerging leaders engaged in an action learning experience.


This work begins to fill a gap in the literature. The role of team sponsors has been studied for single organization work teams but there is a void of understanding about the role of sponsors with multi-organizational teams working to improve health while also learning about leadership.



Financial support for this evaluation was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Grant No. 61,553). The authors would like to offer their thanks and appreciation to Dr David Altman, Ms Lynn Fick Cooper and other Ladder to Leadership (LTL) program staff of the Center for Creative Leadership. They would also like to express their sincere thanks to Ms Sallie George, LTL program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They also thank Dr Julia Jackson-Newsom for her contributions to the LTL evaluation, Dr Holly Downs and Dr Emily Hoole for their contributions to this paper. Finally, they offer their sincere appreciation to all of the LTL Fellows, local LTL partners, and all of the other individuals who helped make this evaluation possible by their active participation and support.


Patterson, T.E., Dinkin, D.R. and Champion, H. (2017), "Team sponsors in community-based health leadership programs", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 171-183.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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