Leadership Development

The Concept of Leadership

Historical views of leadership abilities treated them as innate characteristics. The notion that leaders are “born” has largely been replaced by the idea that leadership competencies can be “learned.” While initial efforts at leadership development focused on senior managers, current thinking emphasizes the value of building leadership skills among the workforce at all levels of the organization. This would include, for example, middle managers, direct care staff, peer specialists, and family advocates. The existence of leadership competencies and leadership programs has led to an increased focus on succession planning, which involves identifying potential future leaders within mental health organizations and systematically offering these individuals opportunities to build their leadership skills.

Competencies & Principles

A Compendium

Identifying competencies in mental health has been a focus of efforts to increase leadership skills within this field. A compendium of leadership development efforts in the mental health systems of seven countries identified numerous competency sets. While these had varied concepts of leadership, they each tended to encompass the following competency categories: 

  1. Personal skills and knowledge
  2. Interpersonal (people) skills 
  3. Transactional (execution, management) skills
  4. Transformational skills
  5. Policy and program knowledge 

The compendium also summaries leadership development methods and specific programs (see Beinecke, 2009, below).

Principled Leadership

Two noted experts in mental health, William Anthony and Kevin Ann Huckshorn (2008), interviewed leaders in this field and drew on the concept of Principled Leadership to identify eight core principles: 

  1. Leaders communicate a shared vision.
  2. Leaders centralize by mission and decentralize by operations.
  3. Leaders create an organizational culture that identified and tries to live by key values.
  4. Leaders create an organizational structure and culture that empowers their employees and themselves.
  5. Leaders ensure that staff are trained in a human technology that can translate vision into reality.
  6. Leaders relate constructively to employees.
  7. Leaders access and use information to make change a constant ingredient of their organization.
  8. Leaders build their organization around exemplary performers.

Training Programs

Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network Leadership Academy/Development Program

The ATTC Network has a history of providing leadership development programs for addiction and behavioral health leaders. Current iterations of this programming include projects through the National American Indian & Alaska Native ATTC, Mid-America ATTC, and New England ATTC.

California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions (CIBHS)

This organization offers a nine-day leadership institute that is tailored for senior or emerging leaders in county behavioral health, mental health or addiction services, and the leaders in publicly-funded community behavioral health organizations. To date, over 600 individuals have participated. 

International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL)

This collaboration of the mental health authorities in multiple countries has focused on developing leaders. A biannual meeting of current and emerging leaders is held on a rotating basis in different countries. The week-long series begins with an “exchange,” in which visiting delegations spend time with host-nation experts and tour local mental health programs. After a travel day, all participants gather in a common location for two days of education, information sharing, and discussion of current mental health issues. 

National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council is a prominent provider association in the field of behavioral health. It has had a long tradition of offering executive leadership training. The program involves: participation in the National Council’s annual conference; a 3-day in-person kick-off meeting for the leadership program; an on-line assessment of leadership characteristics; individual and group coaching calls; participation in a leadership project; and two additional in-person training meetings. 


Competencies & Principles

Anthony, W. A., & Huckshorn, K. A. (2008). Principled leadership in mental health systems and programs. Boston, MA: Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation/Boston U.

Corrigan, P. W., & Garman, A. N. (1999). Transformational and transactional leadership skills for mental health teams. Community Mental Health Journal, 35 (4): 301-312.

Leadership Development Programs

Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network

Beinecke, R. H. (2009). Leadership training programs and competencies for mental health, health, public administration, and business in seven countries. International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL).

California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions (CIBHS), Leadership Institute

International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL)

National Council for Behavioral Health, Executive Leadership Program

Peer Leadership

Kaufman, L., Kuhn, W., & Stevens Manser, S. (2016). Peer specialist training and certification programs: A national overview. Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin. 

Vocal Virginia, Peer Recovery and Leadership Trainings

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