Shared Leadership and the Starfish Model

At The Iron Project, we believe in customizing each session to fit the needs of the client. While we have six main teaching experiences, we offer multiple topics related to leadership development. My personal favorite topic we teach on: the Starfish model.

The idea comes from that fact that if you cut a leg of a Starfish off, it will not only grow back, but a new Starfish will grow from the leg you cut off (“The Starfish and the Spider”). There is a valuable lesson in this: leaders can be grown.

The Starfish model empowers all members of the organization to be leaders. Since information is disseminated to everyone, teams can function on their own, in a sense. A Starfish leader looks very different from a traditional business leader. You may never know who the “boss” is in a Starfish model organization. Teams are empowered to make their own decisions, within guidelines set forth by the organization. The system is decentralized. But also, when the system is working all together, it can be incredibly powerful. I personally believe in this approach because I have experienced its power for myself.

A few years ago, I learned about a free, peer-led, women’s workout group. They had me at “free”!

I showed up to the first workout prepared to get into shape. What I got instead was a chance to lead other women in a workout. I had no idea what I was doing the first time I led. But with practice, I got better, and through that experience, I developed knowledge and confidence.

Three years later, I have been a workout leader, a regional leader, and captained many running teams. It wasn’t because someone elected me to do those things. It was because through the Starfish model, I developed the confidence to lead thanks to shared leadership with women from all different areas of the Southeast and from all different walks of life. These workouts are still growing and expanding; one woman agrees to branch out and a whole new workout begins and new leaders are raised up.

Even in corporations that are run from the top down by necessity, there are huge benefits to implementing a Starfish approach within teams, groups and divisions. At The Iron Project, the Starfish model -- how to live it, how to implement it, how to use it to grow new leaders -- is just one of many leadership topics we teach. Reach out now; we’d love to show you how the Starfish can help build a leadership machine inside your organization!


Sabrina Gandy