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Safety Leadership

Words - Darren Sutton

June 17, 2020

Safety Leadership or Leadership?

Much has been said and written about safety leadership. What if we didn’t think of it in this way?

What if safety, health and wellbeing was embedded into the core principles of leadership itself.

This module explores exactly that and encourages better leadership principles that will in turn create a more positive safety culture and enhance safety performance.

Think about the great leaders you’ve met throughout your life—or learned about throughout history. How would you describe them?

What sets these individuals apart?

And what is that special something that draws others to them?


What is Leadership?

Leadership: The capacity and will to rally people to a common purpose together with the character that inspires confidence and trust.

How are things in your organisation just now?

Take a moment to consider how people respond when things go wrong, is there a blame and fear culture or are people willing to raise their concerns?

Consider what kind of attitudes are most prevalent too. Is there a prevailing attitude to just “Get the job done”, regardless of risk or is it more common for people to actually WANT to do things in a safe way whilst carrying out their daily tasks.

Our goal should be to shift people’s mindset to WANT to do things safely and be PROUD of doing things that way.

Successful organisations recognise that leaders at all levels are the key influencers of behaviour and that’s especially so for safety.

There has been a major shift in organisations of all sizes around the world in how they might view leadership.

Instead of purely focusing on the bottom line, executives are recognising that their brand and reputation is a pre-requisite to sustainable success.

There has been an emphasis to create an empowered and engaged workforce.

It’s better to view safety as a core value rather than as “THE” or even “A” priority.

Leaders are often very proud to tell us that “Safety is their No1 Priority” and the truth is that it’s not really.

Just look at what’s happened in the Civil Aviation industry and Boeing recently. If there’s one area of industry that we would really like safety to be the No1 priority it’s in Civil Aviation but clearly it’s not even the priority here. Discover More

There are other things that dominate leaders thinking such as profit, share price, customer service, the environment, quality and hopefully safety is there too!

We need to understand that priorities often change, from day to day and even from moment to moment.

VALUES tend to be more fixed and when we think of things as a value that we strive for our mind can cope with that much more sustainably.

We must also recognise that leaders must sometimes also manage and that managers can also lead. We have already explored how leadership is not about titles.

To start to shift attitudes and mindsets towards WANTING to do things the safe way because it’s just the right thing to do rather than feeling that they HAVE to otherwise something bad might happen.

The Impact of Leadership on Safety Performance