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Rethinking Leadership & Organizational Structure

This article first appeared in “HIR Wellness Institute: Systems thinking to change the way we care for survivors of violence” published by HIR Wellness Institute on August 24, 2023.

“People first” takes on a whole new meaning when you see relationships as health, connection as currency and productivity as a process. Workforce has been evolving, it demands a new model to train the next generation that has trauma and healing informed providers and professionals.

At HIR Wellness Institute, we embody three core practices that shift the traditional leadership and organizational structures. The three components that interplay together are Matriarchal Shared Leadership, the Community Activated Medicine Framework™, and the Children’s Fire Holacracy™.

As a survivor-led nonprofit organization we prioritize the health, respite care, and wellbeing of our helpers & healers. Our team receives flex time to support sick leave, medical or care needs for self, community, or pets, and a self-care budget. In 2023, we launched our strategic organizational care plan. We have grown our paid time off (PTO) from 40 hours of accrued PTO to also include 40 hours immediately credited PTO. We have added 3 additional PTO social justice holidays (12 PTO holidays in total). In January we included a paid monthly

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

- Albert Einstein

Organizational Care Day Off. This June, we launched our summer self-care days off ensuring multiple three-day weekends. In our organization we are annually offering 288 hours or 7.2 business weeks paid time off a year. We are invested in deepening the health justice work for systemic change and the culture of care for helpers and professionals serving victims of violence.

Matriarchal Shared Leadership

As we seek to learn from our ancestors’ teachings and the ways of governance that worked for centuries prior to colonization, we invite our Indigenous roles into colonial spaces. Shifting the paradigm from western archetypes to Indigenous archetypes is part of our Intergenerational Healing Approach™. Through this process, we bring roles such as Advising Elders, Fire Keepers, Earth Mothers, Tricksters, and Healers forward.

Matriarchal Shared Leadership (Denny, 2019) normalizes feminine leadership styles to be centered and protected, not patronized, shamed, or dismissed as less impactful. It is not the alternative to patriarchal leadership styles, rather it offers freedom for these ancient ways of knowing to be celebrated, liberated, and fully nurtured. It is rooted in vulnerability, humility, trust, relative-hood, creativity, nurturing of self and others, teaching, mentorship, modeling, and holding space for the unseen/unknown. It invites us to slow down, be in relationship with one another, intentionally focusing on deepening the process of making decisions together.

Shared Leadership

According to a shared research study published in the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Agent Technology, shared leadership can be defined as “broadly sharing power and influence among a set of individuals, rather than centralizing it in the hands of a single individual who acts in the clear role of a dominant superior.”

“Most companies are organized on the premise that the smartest company is the one with the smartest individuals given the authority to manage the work of others,” said Rod Collins, author of Leadership in a Wiki World (Dog Ear Publishing, June 2010). “The digital revolution is spawning an entirely different management model, where the assumption is that the smartest companies have quick access to the collective knowledge of the company.”

This management model shifts power from authoritarian models to more collaborative ones. This approach calls in a collective investment for people to bring their gifts, talents, voice, and ideas forward to be thoughtfully considered and have the power to influence change. Together we free those from the risks of falling into imposter syndrome and encourage learning and collaborating with one another through utilizing workstreams, team pods, and community workgroups. We see it inspires innovation and employee engagement. The practice calls in a work community that shares power with one another versus over one another. It liberates us from the pressures of striving to be the “expert” and invites humility, reciprocity, and vulnerability as indicators of success within this model.


“A set of self-organizing networks within a company that encourages employees to be flexible in how they approach tasks, bringing their full selves to the table rather than as assigned role with defined skills.” - The Modern Trauma Toolkit, by Christy Gibson, MD


Denny, L. S. (2019). Matriarchal Shared Leadership. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States of American: HIR Wellness Institute.

Collins, R. (2010). Leadership in a Wiki World: Leveraging Collective Knowledge To Make the Leap To Extraordinary Performance. Dog Ear Publishing, LLC.

Holacracy. (2023). In C. Gibson, The Modern Trauma Toolkit: Nurture Your Post-Traumatic Growth with Personalized Solutions (p. 113). Hacheete Go.

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