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DEIA | Trauma-Informed Leadership

September 22nd, 2022

According to the American Psychological Association, trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. Did you know that rates of trauma exposure can be as high as 60% in the general population here in the United States of America? Trauma can occur in everyday life, including in the workplace, where interactions can trigger individuals and lead to an unproductive emotional response.  What type of interactions? Here are a few examples.

  • Being “different” from others in your workplace.
  • Experiencing any form of discrimination.
  • Being treated as insignificant or peripheral.

So, what can we do? Become a trauma-informed leader. Trauma-informed leadership is a way of understanding and appreciating each individual’s emotional experiences. That’s why SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has defined how a trauma-informed leader shows up. A trauma-informed leader…

  • Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths to recovery.
  • Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in individuals on the team.
  • Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices. 
  • Seeks to actively resist “retraumatization.” 

To be this type of leader, 

  • Develop your emotional intelligence
  • Build your resilience muscles
  • Spend time with your employees to build trusting relationships
  • Familiarize yourself with the mental health services offered via your employee assistance program

Many of our leadership development programs are missing this element because of the stigma around mental health and not wanting to put leaders in a position to diagnose mental health issues. There are ways to bolster leadership capability in this space without expecting our leaders to play a mental health professional role. I challenge organizational leaders to commit the time and money to develop their leadership teams in a trauma-informed manner. 

Where can you find resources and development opportunities for trauma-informed leadership?

Sherrice Thomas 
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access
SherriceThomas@columbus.org