Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Emphasizing the Greater Good: Important Traits Need to Be Passed onto the Next Generation of Addiction Treatment Leaders

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Emphasizing the Greater Good: Important Traits Need to Be Passed onto the Next Generation of Addiction Treatment Leaders

Article excerpt

Two characteristics have distinguished first-generation addiction treatment leaders from leaders in other areas of healthcare:

* Many addiction treatment leaders have been diagnosed with the disease of chemical dependency. Thus, leaders have been more than passive participants simply doing their jobs; they have been living out a commitment to ensure that others have the same opportunity to participate in lifelong recovery.

* In addition to their individual commitments to successful treatment center operations, addiction treatment leaders have had an overriding passion for ensuring that treatment is available to everyone suffering with addiction. They have understood that success is a shared goal--that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Except for a slight hiccup in the mid to late '80s, when a corporate culture replaced leaders' traditional "relational" culture, addiction treatment leaders have relied on each other. They call or e-mail each other for advice; they train clinical staff for each other; they encourage subordinates to accept positions at competitors; and they refer patients inappropriate for their programs to organizations with appropriate programming.

They did not learn to work together in any business school or from a business magazine. This has been their way of life because of their personal history and shared mission and purpose. For the past 40 years, camaraderie has been their dominate trait and natural tendency. But it remains to be seen whether the next generation of leaders will share this quality.

There is never a clean break between one generation and another. Many leaders straddle both generations and can share their wisdom and experience. Nevertheless, it seems fairly certain that leaders diagnosed with the disease of chemical dependency will not be the majority in the next generation of leaders. A combination of factors supports this conclusion, not the least of which is the need for more education, specific healthcare management training, and credentials, and a continued lack of clear career paths for recovering individuals who want to pursue addiction treatment management.

So without a majority of leaders with a very intimate connection to chemical dependency treatment, it's not clear whether the next generation of addiction treatment leaders will have the sense of mission, passion, and calling to ensure that the entire addiction treatment enterprise moves forward. …

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