TeamSTEPPS Fundamentals Course: Module 3. Leadership: Instructor's Materials

TeamsTEPPS Fundamentals Course

TeamSTEPPS is a teamwork system developed jointly by the Department of Defense (DoD)and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to improve institutional collaboration and communication relating to patient safety.


Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower



Objectives: Describe different types of team leaders. Describe roles and responsibilities of an effective team leader. Describe the leader's role in resource management. Describe the delegation process. Describe strategies for team leaders to include briefs, huddles, and debriefs. Describe how effective team leaders facilitate conflict resolution. Identify the barriers, tools, strategies, and outcomes of leadership.

Module Time: 40 Minutes


In this module, we will:

  • Describe different types of team leaders.
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of an effective team leader.
  • Describe the leader's role in resource management.
  • Describe the delegation process.
  • Describe strategies for team leaders to use, including briefs, huddles, and debriefs.
  • Describe how effective team leaders facilitate conflict resolution.
  • Identify the barriers, tools, strategies, and outcomes of leadership.

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TeamSTEPPS Framework

TeamSTEPPS logo. For details, go to [D] Text Description.

[D] Select for Text Description


Leadership is the linchpin that holds a teamwork system together. Effective leaders create the climate that allows teamwork to flourish. The actions of leaders are intimately linked to the other three essential elements of teamwork:

  • First, leaders must constantly monitor the situation to better anticipate team members' needs and effectively manage the resources to meet those needs.
  • Second, leaders must communicate effectively with their team members to model appropriate behavior and reinforce and reward that behavior when it is exhibited by team members.
  • Third, leaders must foster an environment of mutual support by role-modeling and reinforcing the use of those types of behaviors.

Leaders also have a responsibility to support the patient care team.

Leadership has been identified by team researchers as an important piece in the teamwork skills puzzle. Salas and colleagues point out that leaders "impact team effectiveness not by handing down solutions to teams, rather by facilitating team problem-solving through cognitive processes (e.g., shared mental models), coordination processes (e.g., environmental monitoring, resource management), and the team's collective motivation and behaviors (e.g., performance expectations)."

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Team Leader

Team Leader. Two types of leaders: Designated—The person assigned to lead and organize a designated core team, establish clear goals, and facilitate open communication and teamwork among team members. Situational—Any team member who has the skills to manage the situation-at-hand.


Team leaders are well-informed team members who make decisions and take actions. Team leaders establish the goals of the team and help maintain its focus. There are two types of leaders.

The first type is the designated team leader. For a team to function successfully, a leader must be designated. This leader must possess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to achieve the established goals.

The second type is the situational leader. Designated leadership may change depending upon the flow of the case. Situational leaders emerge at designated times, such as anesthesia induction, and at spontaneous times, for instance, the first responder to a code.

In effective teams, any member of the team with the skills to best manage the situation can assume the role of situational leader. Once the situation has been resolved or the designated leader is ready to assume control, the situational leader again assumes the role of team member.


  • Are there designated team leaders on your unit?
  • Is the role of team leader acknowledged and understood by team members?
  • How do leaders' roles change from situation to situation?
  • Can the roles of the designated leader and situational leader be better defined on your unit?

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Effective Team Leaders

Effective Team Leaders: Organize the team. Articulate clear goals. Make decisions through collective input of members. Empower members to speak up and challenge, when appropriate. Actively promote and facilitate good teamwork. Skillful at conflict resolution.


Team leaders must possess a set of effective skills regardless of the type of team that they lead. Team leaders should be able to effectively:

  • Organize the team.
  • Articulate clear goals.
  • Make decisions based on input of team members.
  • Empower team members to speak up and openly challenge when appropriate.
  • Promote and facilitate good teamwork.
  • Resolve conflict.

Evidence also suggests that effective team leaders:

  • Are responsible for ensuring that team members are sharing information, monitoring situational cues, resolving conflicts, and helping each other when needed.
  • Manage resources to ensure team performance.
  • Facilitate team actions by communicating through informal exchange sessions.
  • Develop norms for information sharing.
  • Ensure that team members are aware of situational changes to plans.

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Resource Management Is...

Resource Management is... A strategy for achieving workload balance within and across teams in a unit. Refers to people, knowledge or information, materials and time that can be drawn upon to accomplish a task. Goal is to prevent work overload situations that compromise situation awareness and increase the risk of error.


Resource management is the active handling of resources available to teams. These resources can include time, people, equipment, and information. The goal of resource management is to make best use of all available resources to increase situation awareness among team members and decrease the risk of error.

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Resource Management

Penguin medical team in center of chart is Human Capital. Surrounding Human Capital are Core Team Leader (Information [patient and family; plan of care; and facilities], time, and equipment), Coordinating Team Leader (information [administrative, facilities] time, equipment, patient flow, and other departments), FOCUS (team and your unit), and FOCUS (support units).

Key Point: Resource management is a key component of team leadership.


This slide depicts the responsibilities of the core and the coordinating team leaders in managing resources. Management of resources within the department and across teams is primarily a function of the coordinating team leader. The core team leader manages resources within the team.

Some methods of resource management may include:

  • Determining available resources and requirements.
  • Prioritizing tasks that need to be completed.
  • Collaborating within or across teams to develop a plan for the use of resources.
  • Anticipating potential problems with the plan.
  • Revising the plan as necessary.


  • How do your unit team leaders handle the items listed on this slide?
  • What has been effective and what has not been effective?


  • For the example of a mass casualty situation coming to the emergency room:
    • How can extra staff be contacted if they are not physically on the unit?
    • How are junior and senior staff going to be assigned to high-acuity patients?
    • Is the workload optimally distributed between teams or people?
    • Is all necessary equipment functioning and readily available?

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Delegation: Method of re-distributing tasks or assignments. Process includes 4 steps: 1. Decide what to delegate. 2. Decide to whom to delegate. 3. Communicate clear expectations. 4. Request feedback. Right side of slide shows penguin doctor with clipboard in conversation with two penguins wearing scrub tops.


Delegation is a method of redistributing tasks or patient assignments. Delegation can occur within and between teams and be utilized across all role groups depending on the task requirements. There are 4 steps to the delegation process:

  • Determine what to delegate.
    • Consider priorities, work requirements, and availability of resources.
  • Determine to whom to delegate.
    • Consider skill, availability, scope of practice.
  • Communicate clear expectations of what needs to be done.
    • Communicate the plan, as well as the tasks to be completed.
  • Request feedback.
    • Verify task completion and outcomes.
    • Recognize achievement.


  • How do your unit team leaders handle the items listed on this slide?
  • What has been effective and what has not been effective?

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Promoting and Modeling Teamwork

Promoting & Modeling Teamwork. Effective leaders cultivate desired team behaviors and skills through: Open sharing of information; Role modeling and effectively cueing team members to employ prescribed teamwork behaviors and skills; Constructive and timely feedback; and Facilitation of briefs, huddles, debriefs, and conflict resolution.

Key Point: To be effective, team leaders must model the behavior that they would like their team members to perform and reinforce those behaviors.


Effective team leaders cultivate desired team behaviors and skills through:

  • Facilitating information sharing.
    • Briefs.
    • Huddles.
    • Debriefs.
  • Facilitating mutual support.
    • Delegating tasks.
  • Facilitating conflict resolution.
    • Providing constructive and timely feedback.
  • Facilitating situation awareness.
    • Identifying important aspects of the plan.
    • Conducting briefs, huddles, and debriefs.
  • Serving as a role model:
    • Effectively role-model the desired teamwork behaviors and skills.

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Exercise: Leadership

Exercise: Leadership. Instructions: Begin by selecting a leader and scribe for your group. The group will have ten minutes to address the questions, record your answers, and report back to the group at large.


  • Have participants form groups and discuss the questions. (7 minutes)
  • Then reconvene group and facilitate discussion of the following questions.


  • What characteristics, attitudes, or skills made the leaders that you have known effective and successful?
  • If there was room for improvement, what could they have done to be more effective?
  • Does your group feel that leadership can be learned or taught or is it an innate skill?
  • What one characteristic is most important to the success of effective leaders?
Time: 15 Minutes

Materials: Leadership Exercise Sheet

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Team Events

Team Events. Briefs—planning; Huddles—problem solving; and Debriefs—process improvement. Leaders are responsible to assemble the team and facilitate team events. But remember... Anyone can request a brief, huddle, or debrief.


Three strategies that team leaders can use to promote teamwork are:

  • Briefs.
  • Huddles.
  • Debriefs.

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Briefs. Planning: Form the team; Designate team roles and responsibilities; Establish climate and goals; and Engage team in short and long-term planning. At right is photo of a medical team in hallway briefing prior to treating patient. At bottom right is penguin director icon to denote a video link.


Briefs are held for planning purposes. During a brief, which is sometimes referred to as a team meeting, complete the tasks listed on this slide.

The designated team leader is responsible for organizing a 3-5 minute brief to discuss essential team information. The following information should be discussed in a brief:

  • Team membership and roles—who is on the team and who is the designated team leader.
  • Clinical status of the team's patients—the current condition, diagnosis, plan, and status of each patient assigned to the team are reviewed.
  • Team goals, pitfalls, and barriers—what is to be accomplished and who is to do it.
  • Issues affecting team operations—resources normally available that may be restricted during the current shift.

Performance goals are an intrinsic part of the team's purpose. Successful teams measure their effectiveness in terms of goal achievement. Performance goals are typically established during the team brief. The designated team leader facilitates the process, and team members actively participate to establish both clinical and team work goals.

  Do: Play the video by selecting the director icon on the slide.


  • Who is the team leader? Dr. Upton. He set the tone by coordinating the brief and creating a shared mental model with the entire team.
  • Did the team develop a comprehensive plan for Mrs. Keyes? Yes. Dr. Upton sought input from all team members before communicating the care plan. Team members were well aware of their roles and responsibilities and were eager to share information. Questions were encouraged.
  • Did the team address contingencies and was the patient included in those discussions? Yes. The team understood what specific factors could lead to C-section and Dr. Upton made plans to communicate that information to the patient.
Key Point: Planning is an important first step in understanding who is on your team, what needs to be done, and any issues that need to be resolved or considered in order to operate.

Video Time: 0:36 seconds

Materials: Brief2.LandD Video

 Customizable Content

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Planning Essentials for Teams

Planning Essentials for Teams: Leader usually initiates the planning process. Team members are included in the planning process. Team members have a common understanding of the problem and their roles.


The team leader usually initiates the planning process; but any core team member can do so.

Team members are included in the planning process or are informed of the team's plan.

Planning ensures that team members have a common understanding of the plan of care and any potential problems, along with an understanding of their roles in carrying out the solution.

Involvement of all team members in the planning process is essential because team members need to know what is going on, where the team is headed, and what tasks need to be performed.

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Briefing Checklist

At left is photograph of medical team receiving a briefing. At right is a Briefing Checklist. Topic: Who is on core team? All members understand and agree upon goals? Roles and responsibilities understood? Plan of care? Staff availability? Workload? Available resources?


Similar to a preflight checklist used in aviation, during a brief, the team leader should cover the items on the checklist. As in aviation, the briefings before flights provide the ideal forum for building a team dynamic that allows everyone to work together when carrying out routine tasks and when tackling unexpected problems.

Briefs serve the following purposes:

  • They clarify who will be leading the team so that others know to whom to look for guidance.
  • They open lines of communication among team members, ensuring that everyone can contribute their unique knowledge base to the task, and thereby set the tone for the upcoming procedure. Protocols, responsibilities, and expected behaviors are discussed and reinforced so that possible misunderstandings are avoided.
  • They prepare the team for the flow of the procedure, contingency plans, and the means for resolving any unusual circumstances.
  • By delineating expectations, they reduce disruptive or unexpected behaviors.


  • Have you participated in a brief? Did the items on this checklist occur? If not, what was not done?

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Huddle-Problem solving: Hold ad hoc, "touch-base" meetings to regain situation awareness. Discuss critical issues and emerging events. Anticipate outcomes and likely contingencies. Assign resources. Express concerns. Two images are at right: 1. Five penguins in football uniforms, huddling for discussion. 2. Medical team in hallway conference. At bottom right is penguin director icon to denote a video link.


The huddle is a tool for reinforcing the plans already in place for the treatment of patients and for assessing the need to change plans. It serves as a tool for developing shared understanding between team members of the plan of care. It also provides team leaders with an opportunity to informally monitor patient and unit-level situations.

Information will change over time and that will require monitoring and updating of the team. Note that a sudden increase in the activity level of an individual or the team indicates the need to reevaluate workload status. Workload distribution may need to be adjusted on the basis of this information.

Information updates within the team should occur as often as necessary. Updates can take the form of a huddle at the status board or can occur between individual team members whenever new information needs to be shared.


The ICU Green Team has four patients on a very busy evening shift. During a huddle, the team leader decides that patient A can be transferred to the step-down unit if his ABGs after extubation are acceptable. The team is also alerted about an elderly patient with severe pneumonia being admitted from the ED.

 Do: Play the video by selecting the director icon on the slide.


  • What event necessitated the need for the huddle?
    • The patient's EKG indicated a possible acute MI requiring additional team action, planning and coordination due to the emergent nature of the patient's condition.
  • What key information was shared in the huddle?
    • Most recent patient history and current status.
    • Distribution of tasks and workload.
    • Emergent plan of care.
Key Point: Huddles provide team members with an opportunity to update each other on emerging or significant changes in the status of the environment so all team members can adapt appropriately.

Video Time: 0:31 seconds

Materials: Huddle.ER video

 Customizable Content

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Debrief - Process Improvement: Brief, informal information exchange and feedback sessions; Occur after an event or shift; Designed to improve teamwork skills; Designed to improve outcomes. An accurate reconstruction of key events; Analysis of why the event occurred; What should be done differently next time.


Debriefs include:

  • Accurate recounting and documentation of key events.
  • Analysis of why the event occurred, what worked, and what did not work.
  • Discussion of lessons learned and how they will alter the plan next time.
  • Establishment of a method to formally change the existing plan to incorporate lessons learned.

Debriefs are most effective when conducted in an environment where honest mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities. Debriefs should be the subject of a brief (about 3 minutes or less) team event typically initiated and facilitated by the team leader. Debriefs are most useful when they relate to specific team goals or address particular issues related to recent actions of the team. Debriefs also maintain effectiveness by not assigning blame or failure to an individual.

Although the debrief is meant to be a process improvement tool, at times it may be necessary to conduct a complete process review and system redesign if the same issues or events continue to reoccur. These recurring issues may be identified during a debrief and could then be mapped out and accessed at a designated time in the near future.

While you strive to have a flexible and adaptive team, be cautious of creating workaround processes to accommodate certain issues.

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Debrief Checklist

Debrief Checklist.  At left, Penguin coach describing play on chalkboard for three penguin players in uniform. Textbox: Communication clear? Check. Roles and responsibilities understood? Check. Situation awareness maintained? Check. Workload distribution? Check. Did we ask for or offer assistance? Check. Were errors made or avoided? Check. What went well, what should change, what can improve? Check.


How to conduct a debrief:

  • Facilitate the discussion as a leader by asking questions related to team performance. What did we do well?
  • Recap the situation, background, and key events that occurred.

As a team, assess how the following played a role in the performance of the team:

  • Team Leadership.
  • Situation awareness.
  • Mutual support.
  • Communication.

Then summarize lessons learned and set goals for improvement.

This checklist can be used by the team during a debriefing to ensure that all information is discussed.

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Debrief Video

Medical team in hallway being debriefed.


Dr. Upton leads the Labor and Delivery Team debrief immediately following a procedure. He facilitates the discussion among team members who have an opportunity to share lessons learned and valuable feedback with the entire team.

 Do: Play the video by selecting the director icon on the slide.


  • What were some of the positive effects from this debrief?
    • Team members shared best practices that improved individual and overall team performance.
    • All team members were encouraged to participate.
    • Reinforced teamwork skills produce good outcomes.
    • Staff were able to self-learn and provide juniors with a teaching opportunity.
  • Describe the tone Dr. Upton set for the debrief?
    • Set a positive tone for open communication.
    • Encouraged feedback.
    • Facilitated lessons learned.
    • Reinforced team behaviors and successes with the team.
Video Time: 0:24 Seconds

Materials: Debrief. LandD Video

 Customizable Content

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Facilitating Conflict Resolution

Facilitating Conflict Resolution: Effective leaders facilitate conflict resolution techniques through invoking: Two-Challenge rule; and DESC script. Effective leaders also assist by: Helping team members master conflict resolution techniques; and Serving as a mediator.


Conflict is inevitable and can be caused by differences in clinical knowledge, work approaches, values, opinions, or personality. Resolution of conflict is necessary in the delivery of safe, quality care. Leadership skill in conflict resolution can enhance team effectiveness and performance. An effective team leader does not allow interpersonal or irrelevant issues to negatively impact the team.

Instructor Note: The Mutual Support module provides specific strategies for resolving conflict (i.e., Two-Challenge rule and DESC script).

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Team Formation Video—Optional

Team Formation Video. Female nurse and two male doctors talking. At bottom right is penguin director icon to denote a video link.


Now that we've discussed the importance that leadership plays in creating positive teamwork outcomes, let's watch the entire case of 27-yr old Mrs. Keys under the care of a team that utilizes effective and timely leadership strategies including:

  • Briefs.
  • Huddles.
  • Briefing Checklists.
  • Conflict Resolution.
  • Debrief.

 Do: Play the video by selecting the director icon on the slide.

Video Time: 5:03 minutes

Materials: Video Vignette 4B

 Customizable Content


  • What leadership tools did Dr. Dean utilize?
    • Huddle with team before RN shift change.
    • Brief the concerns and current status of Mrs. Keys.
    • Established himself as current situational team leader.
    • Verbalized the current plan of care.
  • How did the nurses demonstrate leadership?
    • Huddle at shift change to discuss high threats even with competing tasks and distractions.
    • Prompted the "Timeout" checklist.
    • Offered valuable feedback during debrief.
  • Was conflict resolution needed?
    • Janet's use of the Two-challenge rule was accepted and
    • acted upon by Dr. Dean.
  • What leadership strategies did Dr. Upton employ?
    • Huddle for emergent need to perform C-section.
    • Pre-procedure Briefing checklist used.
    • Included the patient in the "timeout."
    • Conducted a debrief to recap the event and for lessons learned.
    • Empowered team members to speak freely and share team workload.

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Leadership. Three column table: Column 1-Barriers: Hierarchical Culture; Lack of Resources or Information; Ineffective Communication; Conflict. Column 2-Tools and Strategies: Brief; Huddle; Debrief. Column 3-Outcomes: Shared Mental Model; Adaptability; Team Orientation; Mutual Trust.


Within this module, we identified some barriers to effective leadership. Some tools and strategies were introduced to overcome these barriers. The outcomes of effective leadership are a shared mental model, adaptability, team orientation, and mutual trust.

Effective leadership in teams results in:

  • Increased mutual trust.
  • Better developed common understanding among team members through information sharing.
  • Quicker adaptation by the team to changing situations through an improved ability to predict and anticipate.
  • Better utilization of resources—more likely to have resources when needed through planning.
  • Increased ability to learn from situations in patient care.
  • Improved climate of teamwork developed through praise, encouragement, feedback, and empowerment.

Leaders have an impact on team effectiveness by ensuring that all changes in information are shared and understood by team members. They also ensure that teams and team members have the resources necessary to perform the task required.

Leaders must ensure that information sharing, monitoring, helping, and other team actions are taking place by reinforcing shared mental models and by modeling actions for team members. Leaders must provide team members with the appropriate human and material resources (e.g., team member with proper skills) to perform. Facilitating team actions aids in the development of shared mental models, while managing resources ensures that teams can be adaptable when necessary.

Key Point: Team leaders must ensure information is being shared, all team members have the resources they need to do their job, the situation within the work environment is continually monitored, and appropriate behaviors are modeled and reinforced across the team.

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Teamwork Actions

Teamwork Actions: Empower team members to speak freely and ask questions; Utilize resources efficiently to maximize team performance; Balance workload within the team; Delegate tasks or assignments, as appropriate; Conduct briefs, huddles, and debriefs; and Utilize conflict resolution techniques (i.e., Two-Challenge rule and DESC script).


  • Empower team members to speak freely and ask questions.
  • Utilize resources efficiently to maximize team performance.
  • Balance workload within the team.
  • Promote and model teamwork.
  • Delegate tasks or assignments, as appropriate.
  • Conduct briefs, huddles, and debriefs.


What teamwork actions will you begin to implement?

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Proceed to Module 4

Page last reviewed November 2008
Internet Citation: TeamSTEPPS Fundamentals Course: Module 3. Leadership: Instructor's Materials: TeamsTEPPS Fundamentals Course. November 2008. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.