Leadership in the consumer and survivor movement in Western Canada: A constructivist grounded theory study
Chan, Walter Wai Tak
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Leadership in the psychiatric consumer and survivor movement is a relatively unexplored and unstudied phenomenon. This study examined leadership practices of 19 psychiatric consumers and survivors in western Canada using constructivist grounded theory. Comparing leadership in organizations controlled by consumers and survivors to organizations not controlled by people with mental health problems, such as mental health charities, the study found commonalities in organizational needs, activities, and struggles, except that poverty was a larger barrier for consumer and survivor organizations. The findings refuted the notion that consumer and survivor organizational leadership was more fractious and fragile than their non-consumer counterpart. The study found three attitudes underlying effective movement leadership and the numerous tasks leaders must accomplish to maximize their chances of success. Participants voiced the centrality of the journey to becoming a leader, from victim to survivor to inner warrior. They voiced that self-realization was leadership’s basis. The study concluded that the mainstream system – the psychiatric system and the government – are as much part of the solution as part of the problem; that is, the social movement can work with the mainstream system, not necessarily adopting its values, but aiming to reform the system from the inside. The findings corroborated with three out of the four components of authentic leadership theory, with implications for refining social movement leadership practice and furthering theory development.