Where do you stand as a safety leader?


By Joe Wheatley, Vice President of EnPro Learning System

Many of you are likely working on your professional goals for the year. I’m sure there are a hundred projects in your peripheral vision, each vying for a spot on the list of goals that get memorialized in your company’s performance tracking system. If your company is like many in this day and age, you likely have both professional and personal goals that you’ll be tracking against. I speak with a lot of folks who flag leadership development as an area for growth; I know that it’s something I like to focus on year over year. One thing that many of our clients ask about is leadership as it pertains to safety, and how those skills are different. During the brainstorming sessions that lead up to goal setting, it’s helpful to have a framework for determine your current state. EnPro Learning System uses the following progression to determine progress in safety leadership development.

Safety Leadership Progression

photo of mountain climbers on a mountain symbolizing 4 levels of safety leadershipAt the base of the progression, is the Compliance leader. This individual understands safety is important through the lens of the negative consequences that happen if it doesn’t happen. They tend to view safety as necessary because a regulatory agency, corporate or their supervisor requires it of them. Leaders at this level will talk about safety as being equally important as production, quality or the like.

The next development phase of safety leadership development is that of the Supporter. An individual in this phase has begun to connect to their own personal motivation for safety. This individual recognizes that there is a deeper connection to safety than “they told me to”. These leaders will discuss safety as more important than anything the company does- more important than production or quality.

The third phase of development is that of the safety Champion. These leaders are characterized by their belief in safety as a core value. They have worked to develop their personal connection to safety and are able to regularly articulate why safety is paramount to them. These leaders will talk about safest publically, regularly and personally and will solicit feedback about how their safety leadership is perceived.

The final stage of safety leadership development is the Visionary. This leader is one who recognizes that all injuries, whether at work or home, can be prevented. This individual sets safety goals that may seem grandiose (like eliminating fork trucks in all manufacturing locations) and then sets about learning how it can be achieved. This individual hones their personal safety message and is always cognizant of how their words and actions support or undermine the safety cultures they work in. These leaders support the growth of the organizations overall safety culture by empowering other leaders and enabling them to act towards safety improvements.

Where do you stand on this leadership progression? It might feel good to assign yourself to the Visionary category, but careful and honest evaluation of your location is crucial to progress. Perhaps your development goals will include activities to move you from one level to the next. We develop safety leaders and help them recognize their unique safety challenges at our safety conferences.

Tags: safety leadership , safety culture ,

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