Relational Leadership Institute


now is the time for a new kind of leadership

The revitalization of health care demands strong, engaged leaders, working to improve health by transforming clinical practices, reforming educational approaches, and advocating for change in policies and systems. The complexity of today’s health care and public health systems also requires healthy, high-functioning teams to successfully create, spread and sustain these changes. Today’s leader must be able to identify shared values, co-create shared vision, cultivate psychologically safer and braver spaces, and inspire collective action. In addition to an understanding of improvement science and clinical innovation, changemakers require a new skill: Relational Leadership™.

Relational Leadership™ emphasizes the “who” and “why” in addition to the “what” and “how” of change, encouraging leaders to optimize the full breadth of human interactions as they manage relationships to achieve authentic connection, common vision, and interdependent action to bring about change and innovation.

our story

The Relational Leadership Institute (RLI), co-created by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Primary Care Progress (PCP), launched in Portland, Oregon in 2017 because increasing numbers of colleagues from a variety of health professions and stages of training were sharing that:

  • they were experiencing burnout and a sense of dissatisfaction with important aspects of their day-to-day professional work; 

  • they felt isolated, and sought a community of supportive peers who were also learning how to be more effective leaders and create a more relational culture in their workplace; 

  • there was a “gap” in leadership practices for building healthy teams, managing conflict, and launching critical innovation projects in an authentically collaborative manner.  

RLI is a leadership learning collaborative bringing together a diverse, interprofessional, cross-generational group of health professionals at all stages of training/experience. Each cohort learns essential Relational Leadership™ practices, an approach to leadership and teaming curated by PCP, that is built upon decades of social psychology research into people, their motivations, how they learn and work. While many healthcare leadership programs focus on technical aspects of change, Relational Leadership™ focuses on cultivating authentic relationships to achieve connection, common vision, and interdependent teamwork. All RLI courses are grounded in these principles, and participants learn how to harness the power of narrative leadership, one-to-one meetings, team dynamics, coaching, and conflict transformation to enhance teamwork and accelerate systems/social change through collective action.

The RLI is sponsored by OHSU’s Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine, and School of Nursing

our impact

RLI is collaborating with OHSU’s Department of Family Medicine to evaluate the program’s effectiveness and better understand Relational Leadership’s™ impact in healthcare and public health. With 127 participants enrolled over the last 2 years, RLI evaluations demonstrate wide applicability, including improvements in well-being scores, enhanced ability in leading teams, and demonstrated institutional/community impact through launched initiatives creating upstream change with others.

Watch the video to learn more about RLI’s impact so far and to learn what’s next.


With more than half of frontline providers burning out, leaders need to learn how to leverage both the head and the heart — harnessing the motivations and emotions that call us all to serve.


What people are saying about RLI

“RLI has inspired me to be a better coach, teacher, co-worker, friend, and partner. It has also opened the doors to a growing community of peers dedicated to making the changes in the system that are congruent with our values and how we want to live and work, and that in and of itself has been uplifting and nourishing.” 

Justin Lee, M.D.

RLI 1 Participant & RLI 3 Facilitator

“RLI has helped shape my leadership practice both in my role as the Director of a large research project and in my advocacy work. I brought the narrative leadership skills I’ve been cultivating in RLI to the Multnomah County Planned Parenthood Leadership & Advocacy team’s organizing efforts. We created a public storytelling event and coached Planned Parenthood patients, some of whom had never spoken in public before, to craft their stories of self, broadcast their values, and initiate change. The event raised more than $1,500 and raised public awareness among voters about upcoming ballot measures related to reproductive health care.”

Leah Gordon, M.P.H.

RLI 1 Participant & RLI Senior Facilitator

“RLI's leadership skills and the importance placed on having shared values has helped me reshape my meetings and how I roll out new projects.  When I approached our office support staff about implementing Medication Assisted Treatment, I started with learning about their values to understand who they are as a team. After talking about the MAT program, we reflected on whether or not the project aligned with their values, and if not, what I could do to get better alignment. It went amazing. They were telling our VP of Operations about it weeks later!”

Lexy Kliewer, L.C.S.W.

RLI 3 Participant & RLI 4 Facilitator