TCEM 18: Great leadership requires mindfulness | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

TCEM 18: Great leadership requires mindfulness

May 1, 2018
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Rob Waggener

Even the most seasoned leaders in behavioral health will find themselves checking their perspectives during times of change. Rob Waggener, LCSW, FACHE, former executive with Universal Health Services and Foundations Recovery Network, recommends that leaders consider their own mindset and how it translates to business operations.

Waggener believes that strategic plans are not much different than clinical plans. Mindfulness and connection to the spirit can be part of leadership in a way that leads to business success.

“Some of the early leadership tomes were all about self-reliance,” Waggener said at the Treatment Center Executive & Marketing Retreat in Hilton Head, S.C. “Self-reliance feeds narcissism and leaves you blind to what is really going on all around you.”

He suggests that leaders tune in to their employees and be present with them, listening and focusing rather than multitasking. It’s especially critical in times of market upheaval or corporate retooling when employees—and often the leaders—are fearful about the future.

“To an employee, disruption is personal. It’s not just professional,” he said. “To be a strong leader in this space, you have to connect with them.”

Waggener recommends three tips for strong leadership in times of change.

1. Seek input from others

Build authentic personal bonds with your team because the company will thrive from the wider perspective. But there’s an even greater business case.

“Personal bonds can drive performance,” Waggener said. “And loyalty saves costs, just in the cost of turnover.”

2. Be transparent

If you make a mistake or react without thinking, be mindful enough to acknowledge it and be willing to work on improvement for next time. Such accountability from a leader has credibility that encourages top performance from employees.

“Being an ethical leader is about putting it out there and being transparent,” he said. “Even if you think it’s the best idea in the world, check it out.”

3. Own the responsibility

Humility is essential, Waggener said. Such rigorous honesty doesn’t mean being a pushover, but rather, it translates to a leader considering how his or her decisions impact others. Rather than shame or blame when an employee’s performance is lacking, leaders should approach solutions from a place of empathy.

“If you are a strong leader, and your employees are struggling, that is your responsibility,” he said.

Treatment centers do a great job of engaging patients, and those same techniques and considerations can be applied to managing staff during today’s fast-paced market changes. “It will pay off in spades,” he said.


The Treatment Center Investment & Valuation Retreat brings together owners and senior executives from the addiction treatment and recovery community to meet with key members of the investment and financial community for an exclusive three-day educational, business, and networking event.

December 10-12, 2018 | Scottsdale, AZ