3 Core Attributes of Strong Safety Professionals and Other Leaders 

I recently had a conversation with a friend. We discussed how my Peloton bike’s consistent use was building a more robust and much more sustainable, and energetic body. As we continued our discussion, we talked about how people become athletes because I mentioned that I was becoming a strong athlete and moving in the right direction. My friend asked this question. “Are athletes born or made?” I started thinking and commenting that I felt I was not born a natural athlete but felt that I was moving toward becoming an athlete. As some of you may know, I have physical issues with my legs and hands, so anything I can do to strengthen those body parts allows me to become more robust and stable. 

Most professional athletes seem to have unique physical talents. But every athlete still must show up and work very hard to maintain their athletic abilities. The most natural athletes will never be competitive (or even in shape) if they don’t try and work hard. 

Later that evening, I started thinking about how safety and other leaders have to play the same role as athletes. Then, I started thinking about what core attributes make a strong influencer and effective leader. For the safety profession, our role falls into two categories. 

  1. Compliance – we are trained in school and learn how they apply to the many different business forms. However, compliance does not exist if workers do not exhibit the right behaviors.
  2. Influence – This is where our profession struggles. Over the last few years, we have increased the information surrounding leadership, and many of our conference speakers focus on the different forms of soft skills. 

As a safety professional, I have focused on soft skills to create a more vital influencer and effective leadership. I have found that many leaders—at least those people will follow—are SELF-MADE. The ability to effectively lead people comes from only the leader’s choices.

Influential leaders come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some are extroverted; others may be introverted. They may focus on the big picture and become strategic thinkers or active doers.

So, as I continued to think about what main focuses create a self-made leader, I identified three (3) core attributes that will make a person a strong leader. 

Any leader can be effective if they can effectively exhibit these three core attributes

1. Full EmbraceFully Embrace Leadership: Many people in leadership roles don’t lead. Leadership is tiring and requires much work. Being a “boss” or dictator isn’t leadership. To lead, a person must identify and engage people’s will and influence them to ensure they all move in a common direction.

Many people view the role of “leader” as the next rung on the ladder—a reward or a position earned. But unfortunately, they don’t always see leadership as something that only exists through action and relationships.

Influential leaders actively inspire a compelling vision among their team. They are cultural architects and role models. They accept that the path to excellence is often on the other side of discomfort.

They work hard to build their leadership through influentially adding value, showing respect, and creating trust with their team and those they encounter

2. Focus on Serving Others: People who end up in leadership roles are often motivated and ambitious drivers to meet their goals and objectives and get things done. The question is, for whom?

The most effective leaders are motivated to serve others. They focus on delivering value to others and support their team or organization to reach their highest level and exceed expectations. 

Many leaders tend to focus on themselves, their vision, legacy, goals, and advancement. When this happens, a leader’s attitudes and behaviors shift from multiplicative to self-opportunistic. Unfortunately, this path will only result in poor performance and a reduction or failure in the respect and trust created previously.

The difference shows up mostly in results. Are the people around them growing? Does the workforce indicate changes in their behaviors? Are people more confident and independent than they were before? Is the culture sustainable? These are all signs of servant leadership

3. Create the Right Vision: Leaders lead to what they see. They can’t lead if they don’t know where to go. Influential leaders must create their vision through the interactive engagement of their team and those who play a part in the results. Leaders validate the vision and then fully communicate. Anyone claiming to be a leader but who doesn’t know or have the vision only fills the leadership seat but doesn’t know how to drive the bus. 

Why Does This Matter?

It can be easy for leaders to get sucked into the weeds. Often, they drift towards a part of the job they enjoy and have the knowledge and experience. But unfortunately, sometimes, leaders and executives do not understand how to embrace authentic leadership, serve others, and drive their visions.

As a test, think of a vibrant organization with a consistently solid and sustainable safety and operational culture.

Here’s what you will see:

  • The leaders of those organizations are actively doing the work of leadership. They’ve embraced it.
  • They lean towards serving vs. seeking to be served.
  • They radiate the vision.

If you aren’t sure, flip it. Can you think of a vibrant organization with a consistently strong, sustainable safety and operational culture led by a leader?

  • Is inactive, absent, or lost in the weeds?
  • Insists on being the “the boss” or maximizing their perks?
  • Has no vision, no sense of direction, and communicates no purpose?

It will not exist.

Answer these three questions to determine your path forward

To what degree do you believe you:

  • Embrace leadership as a responsibility and role?
  • Provide servant-hearted leadership?
  • Have and communicate a clear and compelling vision regularly?

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group and is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behaviorial Consultant. Denis is a senior safety professional and is a strong passionate person of influence who is committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

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