Author(s): Gregory A Aarons
Objective Leadership in organizations is important in shaping workers’ perceptions, responses to organizational change, and acceptance of innovations, such as evidence-based practices. Transformational leadership inspires and motivates followers, whereas transactional leadership is based more on reinforcement and exchanges. Studies have shown that in youth and family service organizations, mental health providers’ attitudes toward adopting an evidence-based practice are associated with organizational context and individual provider differences. The purpose of this study was to expand these findings by examining the association between leadership and mental health providers’ attitudes toward adopting evidence-based practice. Methods Participants were 303 public-sector mental health service clinicians and case managers from 49 programs who were providing mental health services to children, adolescents, and their families. Data were gathered on providers’ characteristics, attitudes toward evidence-based practices, and perceptions of their supervisors’ leadership behaviors. Zero-order correlations and multilevel regression analyses were conducted that controlled for effects of service providers’ characteristics. Results Both transformational and transactional leadership were positively associated with providers’ having more positive attitudes toward adoption of evidence-based practice, and transformational leadership was negatively associated with providers’ perception of difference between the providers’ current practice and evidence-based practice. Conclusions Mental health service organizations may benefit from improving transformational and transactional supervisory leadership skills in preparation for implementing evidence-based practices.