Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Emphasizing 'Principled Leadership'; A New Book Says Well-Trained Leaders Are Key to Creating Recovery-Based Systems

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Emphasizing 'Principled Leadership'; A New Book Says Well-Trained Leaders Are Key to Creating Recovery-Based Systems

Article excerpt

William A. Anthony, PhD, has been talking about recovery since the 1970s. He also has been wondering why some mental healthcare organizations are able to achieve a recovery-oriented culture and others are not.

This led Dr. Anthony, executive director of Boston University's Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, to start teaching a class in the 1990s on leadership. "The reason I was teaching the class was because I always thought, in my travels around the country, that the thing that differentiated organizations from trying to do new things and innovate, and especially work toward a recovery-oriented program or system, was leadership," he says.

As part of his class, Dr. Anthony interviewed mental healthcare leaders nationwide, later realizing that the interviews would make a good book. So Dr. Anthony enlisted the help of Kevin Ann Huckshorn, RN, MSN, CAP, ICADC, who had been developing a curriculum to help inpatient mental healthcare organizations prevent violence and reduce the use of seclusion and restraint.

"She has the same perspective about programs she has seen around the country, that leadership was making a tremendous difference in differentiating the programs that were innovative versus the ones that were just going along with the status quo," he says.

The result of their collaboration, Principled Leadership in Mental Health Systems and Programs, is a treatise on leadership in public mental healthcare. Dr. Anthony and Huckshorn, director of the Office of Technical Assistance for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, combined their interviews with their own experiences as well as principles derived from leadership books in business, education, and other fields.

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Principled Leadership is constructed around eight principles representing actions that public mental healthcare leaders need to take to transform their agencies into recovery-oriented, outcomes-focused organizations serving clients' and employees' needs:

* Leaders communicate a shared vision.

* Leaders centralize by mission and decentralize by operations.

* Leaders create an organizational culture that identifies and tries to live by key values.

Leaders create an organizational structure and culture that empowers their employees and themselves.

* Leaders ensure that staff are trained in a human technology that can translate vision into reality.

* Leaders relate constructively to employees.

* Leaders access and use information to make change a constant ingredient of their organization.

* Leaders build their organization around exemplary performers.

Interviewees represent the highest public health levels of federal and state government, associations, advocacy groups, academia, and the private sector. "There is a critical mass of leaders who are moving toward a recovery-oriented, value-based system or operation," says Dr. Anthony. "This book gives some examples of what leaders have done to try and affect that system." He notes that many of the interviewees have psychiatric disabilities and have shown tremendous leadership in helping systems and programs develop a recovery model.

A Learned Skill

One of Principled Leadership's basic premises is that leadership is an acquired skill, not divinely bestowed. "We think that leadership is just like any other competency--you can learn how to do it," says Huckshorn. "We can measure people's efficiency and effectiveness in certain kinds of leadership roles, and I think that's what this book starts the discussion about. …

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