ASC 2012: Making Great Safety Leaders

ASC 2012: Making Great Safety Leaders

Brian Lewallen, Caterpillar’s director of global environmental affairs, health and safety, discussed leadership styles and transformational safety leadership at the 2012 America’s Safest Companies Conference in Chicago.

At the final keynote session at the 2012 America’s Safest Companies Conference, Brian Lewallen, Caterpillar’s director of global environment affairs for health and safety, encouraged conference attendees to foster transformational safety leadership within their organizations.

Lewallen kicked off the session with some audience interaction to illustrate how training is (or is not) involved when employees are asked to “lead without authority,” as EHS professionals often are. He asked participants to stand if they were the oldest sibling, had held a leadership position in high school, were parents or managed employees at work. He then asked participants who had received training for these roles to sit down – and the majority of attendees who were parents, older siblings or young leaders stayed on their feet, demonstrating that leading without authority rarely comes with formal training.

“It’s no surprise we don’t teach leadership without authority,” Lewallen said. “It’s embedded in our culture.”

The EHS professionals at Caterpillar, Lewallen added, do receive that important training, and other organizations might do well to follow suit. After all, EHS professionals often find themselves at the table convincing company leadership of the value of a safe workplace.

Leadership Styles

The difference between managing and leading, Lewallen stressed, is that managers do the right things while leaders do things right. To illuminate the different approaches one can take to leadership, he outlined six managerial styles:

  • Directive – “Do it the way I tell you.”
  • Affiliative – People first, task second.
  • Pace Setting – “I’ll do it myself.”
  • Participative – “Let’s decide together.”
  • Visionary – Paints the big picture.
  • Coaching – Encourages employee development.

While each of these styles can play an important role in leading employees, depending on the situation, Lewallen pointed out that coaching is “by far the most important and underutilizing leadership style.” As outlined in the 20/70/10 Adult Workplace Learning Model, he added that 70 percent of what employees learn is through experience; 20 percent through coaching and feedback; and 10 percent on formal learning.

Lewallen concluded his presentation – and the inaugural America’s Safest Companies Conference – by encouraging attendees to go home and make some transformations in their own workplaces.

“Take the time to celebrate leadership and take a mindful approach that gets results,” Lewallen said. “The challenge I leave you with after this conference is – what are you going to do about it?”

TAGS: Safety
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