Identifying and ranking implicit leadership strategies to promote evidence-based practice implementation in addiction health services

Implement Sci. 2016 May 14:11:69. doi: 10.1186/s13012-016-0438-y.


Background: Despite a solid research base supporting evidence-based practices (EBPs) for addiction treatment such as contingency management and medication-assisted treatment, these services are rarely implemented and delivered in community-based addiction treatment programs in the USA. As a result, many clients do not benefit from the most current and efficacious treatments, resulting in reduced quality of care and compromised treatment outcomes. Previous research indicates that addiction program leaders play a key role in supporting EBP adoption and use. The present study expanded on this previous work to identify strategies that addiction treatment program leaders report using to implement new practices.

Methods: We relied on a staged and iterative mixed-methods approach to achieve the following four goals: (a) collect data using focus groups and semistructured interviews and conduct analyses to identify implicit managerial strategies for implementation, (b) use surveys to quantitatively rank strategy effectiveness, (c) determine how strategies fit with existing theories of organizational management and change, and (d) use a consensus group to corroborate and expand on the results of the previous three stages. Each goal corresponded to a methodological phase, which included data collection and analytic approaches to identify and evaluate leadership interventions that facilitate EBP implementation in community-based addiction treatment programs.

Results: Findings show that the top-ranked strategies involved the recruitment and selection of staff members receptive to change, offering support and requesting feedback during the implementation process, and offering in vivo and hands-on training. Most strategies corresponded to emergent implementation leadership approaches that also utilize principles of transformational and transactional leadership styles. Leadership behaviors represented orientations such as being proactive to respond to implementation needs, supportive to assist staff members during the uptake of new practices, knowledgeable to properly guide the implementation process, and perseverant to address ongoing barriers that are likely to stall implementation efforts.

Conclusions: These findings emphasize how leadership approaches are leveraged to facilitate the implementation and delivery of EBPs in publicly funded addiction treatment programs. Findings have implications for the content and structure of leadership interventions needed in community-based addiction treatment programs and the development of leadership interventions in these and other service settings.

Keywords: Addiction; Evidence-based practice; Implementation; Leadership strategies; Management; Managers; Organization; Substance use disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Evidence-Based Practice / methods*
  • Female
  • Health Plan Implementation / methods*
  • Health Services
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*