Leading for Better Mental Health

Leading for Better Mental Health is an innovative learning approach to leadership development co-designed by the Learning Network to help team leaders:

  • understand workplace risk factors
  • recognise their impact on others
  • confidently lead with a focus on creating a mentally health workplace

The program will be piloted online and face to face from March to October 2021 across 12 emergency management agencies.

As we wind up the multi-agency pilot, we are working to trial a single agency approach.  The same program will be condensed, tailored and delivered to about 30 team leaders from DEWLP over a few days.

The single agency model will be evaluated by the same team from Charles Sturt University who are evaluating the multi-agency pilot.  This ensures comparable data sets for analysis and the generation of lessons and recommendations.

Not another training program

There are 4 main features that set this program apart and gear it for success.

  1. It takes a sector wide approach that brings staff and volunteers together from different agencies. This has never been done before
  2. It uses mentoring, coaching and peer-to-peer reflection to develop personal insight and test new leadership approaches
  3. It is skill-based and practical, with an emphasis on application in the workplace. The program provides time and space to reflect on new ways of leading. Learnings are practical and will be directly applied in the workplace
  4. It will bring CEOs into the conversation with team leaders about barriers to leading for better mental health so systematic change can happen.


In 2020, the ESF Learning Network engaged in conversations and data gathering about barriers and enablers to positive mental health and wellbeing for staff and volunteers in the emergency management sector. 

Members of the Learning Network determined that improving how leaders are developed – not executives but specifically people who lead teams – will address a range of workplace risk factors.  After all team leaders have the most direct influence on the day-to-day experience of people in the workplace.

The Learning Network saw an opportunity to drive innovation and consistency for sector-wide impact by working collaboratively on this shared challenge.

Using the method of co-design, the Learning Network developed a pilot for leaders working in emergency services.  This program was informed by a review of best practice, a scan of current leadership and mental health training programs.  We also listened to team leaders, they told us they were often promoted from task-oriented roles and felt ill-prepared to lead and nurture mentally healthy work environments.


In partnership with the Charles Sturt University Workforce Wellness Research unit, the pilot will be evaluated for quality, content and delivery as well as the difference it makes to leaders and their teams.