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90 in 90: Lynn Morrison, Brandywine Counseling & Community Services

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Leading with empathy
Brandywine Counseling & Community Services has provided prevention and treatment services that have made Delaware neighborhoods stronger, safer, and healthier for 40 years. By providing compassionate treatment and support, BCCS has helped remove the stigmas surrounding addiction and substance misuse, helping more than 250,000 Delawareans recover and re-enter society.

With over a decade of experience growing and leading Delaware’s largest prevention, treatment and recovery organization, I wanted to share some thoughts on leadership:

1. Build and Cultivate Empathy
Author Peter F. Drucker wrote that, “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things,” and it’s a lesson some leaders never get around to learning. I admit that, even though I’m in the business of helping others, it has sometimes been difficult for me. But it has always been worth it.

2. Be Aware of the Cycle of Addiction and Break It
Be honest about the struggles of addiction and substance misuse as they relate to your own life. Make your children aware of family histories of addiction and problem drinking. Ask yourself difficult questions and be purposeful about disrupting a cycle.

3. Have the Strength of Your Convictions
Speak up for what’s right. Be a mouthpiece for both science, progress and innovation and equality, fairness and empathy. And actively work to challenge stigmas and stigmatized language.

4. Communicate Strategically and Honestly
Being a great manager is associated with effective decision making, problem solving and planning. That’s just part of the story. Tell people what they need to know, not everything you know. Too much information is as bad as no information at all. And be aware of your body language and tone.

5. Surround Yourself with People Who Share and Support Your Vision
As CEO, I am charged with making sure we are successful in bringing our vision to life – together. It takes a team. This doesn’t mean you want sycophants. Seek out intelligent, strategic thinkers who bring to the common mission another viewpoint. And quickly remove toxicity from the environment.

6. Develop and Grow Your Intuition
“Instinct” is a sixth sense for CEOs and leaders – pay attention! Learn to trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right – then it isn’t.

7. Prioritize Self-Care, Privacy and Family Life – and Remember to Laugh!
Your family needs you to be well, healthy, and well adjusted. Your employees and clients need the same thing of you – it’s quite a balancing act. Women tend to put others first. This isn’t always a sound practice if you neglect self-care and become exhausted. Laugh! A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. It boosts air intake, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and releases mood-boosting endorphins. A good laugh also helps ease stress, decreases blood pressure and stimulates circulation.

8. Mentor, Train, Coach
Be open to new ways of doing things. The next generation of leaders is watching and listening – I share my mistakes as quickly as the successes. We tend to learn more from mistakes!  Share knowledge, guide and encourage the next generation of leaders. Learn from them too – they have a lot to give and teach.

9. Be Vulnerable
People respond to leaders who have a heart.

10. Have Goals, Be Flexible, Adapt Quickly
As a clinic and service provider on the front line we have to adjust and adapt every day – working together as a team to protect each other and our community of patients. The pandemic was a very, very difficult time and BCCS employees rose to the occasion like the champions they are. As their CEO, I am still in awe of all they gave of themselves.

Lynn Morrison is president and CEO of Brandywine Counseling & Community Services.

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