An interview with Bill Anthony, Executive Director of the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation.
Q: Your latest book is on Principled Leadership in Mental Health Systems and Programs. What is “principled leadership”?
A: The title is based on two points. First of all, principled leaders are able to talk about the principles they use to change organizations. These principles seem to be common across strong leaders in mental health systems. The second way we use the term “principled leadership” is to describe leaders who are trying to change their systems to be more recovery-oriented, accountable, person-centered, and less coercive.
Q: How do you think these concepts apply for leaders of homelessness service organizations?
A: I think the concepts and principles are relevant for all non-profit leaders, no matter what type of organization one leads. While most leadership books are written with the for-profit sector in mind, our book is geared to the non-profit sector. Leaders in homeless services need to articulate and understand their organization’s mission, vision, operations, and values, just like any principled leader would. The vision should tell them about their image of the future with respect to homelessness. The mission should indicate the role of their agency in moving toward that vision. Operations spell out how they do it. Values spell out what guides them.
Q: What are some of the big challenges to principled leadership?
A: Leaders need to have the interpersonal skills that allow them to relate to staff. That seems to be so obvious, but we’ve heard so many times about leaders who can’t communicate well or who are authoritative. Then the staff turns off, and once they turn off, it’s very difficult on the people being served.
Q: When leadership is grounded in solid principles, what is the impact on the people served by that agency?
A: We entered this study of leadership with a question: why do some agencies produce good outcomes for the people they serve, and some don’t? We believe it’s in large part due to good leadership. Leadership does trickle down in an organization…often in a torrent.
Q: You’ve also written about the Art of Napping at Work. What advice do you have about napping?
A: It helps you psychologically and physically. You can attend to tasks better. You concentrate better. Your mood is better. You feel energetic. If you want to be well rested in our 24/7 culture, you need to squeeze in a nap. The work setting is a good place to do this—during a lunch break, coffee break, water-cooler break, or smoke break. I try to remind folks that the time has come for nappers to lie down and be counted!