QPASTT is committed to trauma-informed leadership, an approach that incorporates the values and principles of being trauma-informed into the development of our programs and services for our clients, our operations and governance, and how we nurture our staff and culture.
Liz Gordon – Senior Leader for Individual and Family Recovery
“The misuse of power and the violation of boundaries is at the core of trauma. People in leadership roles have a responsibility to ensure they do not replicate that. The impacts of trauma are often disconnection, isolation and shame. As an organisation, we therefore look towards integration, connection, and creating a safe and secure foundation where clients and staff can explore and grow.
A key goal in trauma recovery is about restoring dignity. That requires keeping the person at the centre of all decisions. That has been a compass at QPASTT – shaping programs and systems around the needs of clients and communities, understanding how our policies, processes and service delivery impact on people, and ensuring that our service is not re-traumatising for clients. It also requires a consideration of the impact of working in the field of trauma on our staff. A person-centred approach also requires giving people as much choice and transparency as possible. Choice and transparency is integrated at QPASTT, from our work with our clients, to how we work with each other, with other services and stakeholders, and through the structures and systems of the organisation.
A trauma-informed leader invests in getting to know their people and their way of working – understanding their needs and how they might request support. An impact of trauma is that people need to focus on their basic survival needs – their reflective brain goes offline. We create opportunities for thinking, reflecting, and planning so that we’re not playing out that survival/reactive scenario at an organisational level. That attributes of a trauma-informed leader – being warm, approachable, empathetic, safe – produce very different results than a leader who is authoritative, monitoring or micromanaging. A trauma-informed leadership style lends itself to people feeling comfortable giving feedback and building relationships. It allows greater transparency and ensures that staff feel like they have a voice.
There’s a saying, ‘every interaction is an intervention’ – so it doesn’t matter who you are within our organisation, there’s a sense that we should all be working from the same values. One of QPASTT’s key values is kindness. From the moment someone walks in the door, their experience should be one of kindness and respect. If we expect our staff to make that offering to a client – positive, kind and respectful interactions – then our staff need to have experienced that as well. As leaders, it is really important that we model that behaviour.
That approach is applied across our whole organisation – in our policies and procedures, how we treat staff and clients, how we design and deliver programs, how we include communities to how we design the physical environment of the office.
When you go to an organisation that isn’t trauma informed and doesn’t put people at the centre of how they operate – the way they treat their clients and staff, the way they make decisions and communicate – the difference is stark. True trauma-informed leadership is aspirational – a striving to remain consistent with our values. It is an imperfect and ongoing process.”
Fernanda Torresi – Senior Leader for Group and Community-based Recovery
“In our everyday work, trauma-informed leadership requires a deliberate and considered approach to how you connect with people, how you build relationships, and how you build a space where there is trust. When you foster an environment and culture of trust, safety and support, it is possible for people to show vulnerability and to feel comfortable taking risks. This approach requires a leader to be deeply reflective, open, and comfortable with people challenging you and/or expressing when they are unhappy with something.
A trauma-informed leader is person-centred and therefore acknowledges that the conditions of safety are not the same for everybody. Every staff member is different, with different strengths and needs. As a leader, you need to reflect on how you can improve the support you offer people.
Trauma damages connection. If we don’t nurture trust, connections and relationships, it is very difficult to work with each other, to provide quality services and developed programs alongside communities and clients, or to function successfully as an organisation. As trauma-informed leaders, we should model that behaviour – practising in a way that builds trust and connection. A trauma-informed approach to leadership creates the conditions where staff can flourish and thrive.”
QPASTT staff at the FASSTT Conference in 2005, with Liz Gordon second from left and Fernanda Torresi at right.