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Lived experience leadership represents a means to effect much-needed systems transformations across the mental health sector, and yet remains largely underutilised. One barrier to the recognition and resourcing of lived experience leadership as such may be a lack of clarity regarding its nature. To redress this barrier, the current study aimed to produce an account of the defining features of lived experience leadership, as understood by those engaging in its practice. Interviews were conducted with 19 people defined by their peers as lived experience leaders, in which they were asked to discuss lived experience leadership and related concepts such as authority, power and influence. Discursive analysis of interview data produced an understanding of lived experience leadership as defined by people with lived experience’s use of a certain type of power: an experience-based and systems-informed knowledge of and fidelity to themselves as both individuals and as a collective. Results suggest that lived experience leadership is distinct from other forms of mental health leadership and offer influential figures a means to identify and thus appropriately support lived experience leadership in its own right.
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