Leadership Hacks for Harm Reductionists

This section has 6 hacks in it.
“We desperately need more leaders who are committed to courageous, wholehearted leadership and who are self-aware enough to lead from their hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear.”
Brené Brown

What is Leadership?

The dictionary and many leadership experts define leadership as the person or process exerting some kind of influence (social, financial, cultural etc.) to maximize the efforts of many people to achieve a common goal. Leadership is an individual matter that can also be built into the design and culture of an organization.

How to Be a Better Leader

A quick set of recommendations that came out of the conversations with harm reduction leaders we held. These are snippets of real wisdom.

Roadblock Tips:
Better Boundaries

Many harm reduction leaders talked about the need to have healthy boundaries around their work life and the things they will and will not take on. Many spoke to the fact that boundaries did not come naturally to them but that learning them had been critical to doing their best work.

Roadblock Tips:
Time Management

Time management is another area harm reduction leaders, and indeed many people, report struggling with. There are many systems for dealing with time management that deal with one of two issues: How to prioritize tasks and how to focus on tasks.

Roadblock Tips:

Many harm reduction programs start out as DIY operations, with one person (or a few people) doing everything from outreach to vehicle maintenance to training volunteers. This “can do” attitude is laudable but becomes problematic when organizations expand and there are others who can help, yet leaders are often reluctant, or simply don’t know how, to delegate tasks to others.

Organizational Culture for Effective Leadership

Organizational culture can positively or negatively impact any individual leader’s capacity to effectively lead, no matter their personal skill set. Harm reduction leaders have many tips to avoid some of the pitfalls of leadership while ensuring that the leaders they chose can be as effective as possible.

More Resources

Don’t reinvent the wheel
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
Suggest a Resource

External Resources

Collected from around the web
There are a number of external resources that contributed to the development of Harm Reduction Hacks. Here are a selection relating to this section:


The hacks on this site are shared with you under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. This allows you (with attribution) to adapt content for your own use, although we do ask you to then also allow others to have equal access to anything you develop. More details of this licence can be found on the Creative Commons website.


We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.

Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation. 

Harm Reduction Hacks site design and implimentation by Nigel Brunsdon

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