Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The Effective Safety Leader: Leadership Style & Best Practices

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

The Effective Safety Leader: Leadership Style & Best Practices

Article excerpt

In the last column we proposed a model of safety leadership that defines how leaders drive the performance of the larger organization. The center of the model describes the personality, values and emotional commitment of the leader. The next ring of the model sets out how this personal ethic becomes action, that is, what effective safety leaders do. Active and effective safety leadership blends leadership style (how the leader influences) with best practices (observable behaviors that work best day to day).

Leadership Style

Leadership style concerns how the leader approaches opportunities, what he or she chooses to emphasize, to defer and to delegate to others. Research points to transformational style as the most favorable to driving safety and creating a high-performance culture. The developmental nature of this style helps leaders achieve results by influencing, motivating and inspiring employees over whom they may or may not have direct supervision.

Transformational leadership style usually is defined in four dimensions: Influencing establishes the basic credibility and principled action critical to forming relationships. Engaging creates relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. Inspiring propels these relationships toward an improved future. Challenging helps break habits that get in the way of excellence. Transformational leadership fosters the organizational and personal will to go above and beyond self interest. The next ring of the model describes how to direct that will in safety.

Safety Best Practices

Unlike management behaviors, which are directed at what to do, leadership behaviors address how the leader's task fits the overalls goals of the organization. In our work with leaders across many organizations, we have identified a set of observable behaviors, or best practices, that recur among highly effective safety leaders. Although these practices are valuable to leadership generally, we have derived them with safety in mind. It is useful to think about them as building upon one another.

Vision--The effective leader sees precisely what safety excellence looks like, articulates the vision, and conveys it in a compelling way throughout the organization. For example: acting in a way that communicates high personal standards in safety, helping others question and rethink their assumptions about safety and describing a compelling picture of what the future can be. …

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