Leadership is creating and sustaining positive change by working with and through others.

From this come the critical elements of highest level leadership:  1) Change is inspired and has to be sustained (deduct points if it can’t be duplicated or continued); 2) Negative leaders inspire terrorism or hatred but these are not, in my mind, working at the highest level; 3) Any leader’s own actions are far less impactful than the coordinated efforts of those with whom he/she works — the leader’s key role is to galvanize and align others to work with common focus. Weaker leaders try to do it all themselves, not trusting others.

Many weaker leaders don’t trust others to hold up their part so others don’t trust them in return. They become complacent with somewhat successful improvements and then blame workers for their complacency (and results plateau.) They become dispirited and criticize employees for being unmotivated.

Leadership is more like a rheostat than an off-on switch. There are many levels and gradations of leadership, just as there are levels and phases of culture. And safety leadership is merely a subset of overall leadership. Dealing with unproductive behavior employs the same mindset, toolset and skillset as does turning around an unsafe worker (or “accident repeater”).

Leaders continue to learn, hone and improve. Anyone who speaks or writes about leadership, including me, has at best a few pieces of a very complex puzzle.


Robert Pater, Managing Director/Founder, Strategic Safety Associates/MoveSmart®