A Practical Framework for Trauma-Informed Leadership

Earlier this month, members of Argyle USA’s Crisis and Litigation Team attended Trauma-Informed Leadership training to explore how to better work and lead with a trauma-informed approach. 

As a communications and engagement firm, we often operate in contexts that can be distressing for the client teams involved: their employees, key stakeholders, or the community in which they operate. We recognize the duty we have in ensuring the way we work is compassionate and sensitive to all stakeholder groups, along with our own teams at Argyle.  

The term “trauma” can mean different things to different people.  

Trauma can refer both to the experience of, and a response to, a distressing event like an act of violence or a natural disaster. Trauma is also associated with broader and recurring experiences, like systemic racism or repeated exposure to a toxic environment.  

Operating in trauma-informed ways isn’t always simple. It requires a degree of vulnerability and curiosity we may not be used to practicing. But to be of better service to our teams, ourselves and our clients—when they need it most—undergoing such a transformation is a worthwhile endeavor.  

The R.E.V. Model—Recognize, Empower and Validate

Our team used learnings from the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute’s Trauma-Informed Leadership training to establish a practical framework of tactics called the R.E.V. Model—Recognize, Empower and Validate—to help you lead and work in ways that minimize harm to those around you—whether you have insight into their lived experiences, or not. 


  • Recognize that reactions to trauma vary from person to person, from minor disruptions to debilitating impacts to an individual’s life.
  • Embrace this person-to-person variability, as different people hold different identities which, in turn, require different responses. A lack of recognition or understanding of the effects of trauma can result in stigma and further unnecessary suffering.
  • Resilience is the ability to adapt through adverse experiences, and it is extremely valuable for healing from trauma. You can contribute to a team member’s resilience by recognizing the strengths and assets they bring to your team or project.
  • Organizations can play an important role in the positive transformation of individuals and relationships affected by trauma by understanding and celebrating diverse experiences and backgrounds.


  • Empower those around you to understand common trauma-related responses and impacts to an individual’s life. Education is key to this awareness and increased understanding. Creating opportunities for these conversations can be difficult but will further contribute to collective growth.
  • A trauma-aware mindset changes the types of questions we ask each other. Instead of making a harsh assumption about someone’s behavior, you will think more broadly about the circumstance that may have led someone to act a certain way.
  • One of the most significant components to a trauma-informed approach is choice. Ensuring those you’re working with have a sense of personal control over their choices will prevent further re-traumatization by events that reflect earlier experiences of powerlessness and loss of control.


  • A shared acknowledgement and understanding that life brings difficult moments is paramount to trauma-informed leadership. Difficult moments always benefit from validation.
  • Support others in understanding that responses to trauma are normal.
  • Designate time for small team de-briefs, along with breaks or mental relaxation after overwhelming or distressing work. This validates the difficulties work and life might bring.

The R.E.V.—Recognize, Empower, and Validate—Model can help minimize harm to those who may be suffering and decreases the possibility of re-traumatization. No matter the sector, situation, or employee position, these principles can be implemented at any level to create safer physical and emotional workplaces for all.

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