I have been in the Safety Profession for many years. But when I was new in the profession, I focused more on people meeting my expectations, needs, and wants rather than me meeting their needs and wants. I focused on doing big things and getting ahead of EVERYONE! 

All my initial training and education focused on compliance. I was expected to walk the facility and identify compliance issues and look for people not following company policies. Back in my world, the model of leadership was all top-down. Sometimes I ended successfully, but most times, I was unsuccessful because my thoughts were based on the numbers and bonus. That wasn’t the successful method of being a safety professional.

When I started to research leadership and ultimately became a certified executive coach, trainer, and keynote speaker for the Maxwell Leadership Group, I ended up reading a quote by Zig Ziglar that says this, 

“If you help people get what they want, they will help you.”

He was talking about leaders serving others, which rocked my head! When I kept reading, the term “servant leadership” came up. I did not know what that meant. However, I figured it out as my wife, and I served in the children’s church. We were serving the children to understand the bible and how to live a successful life and help others to succeed. 

So, let’s get into the information about servant leadership. 

What is a Servant Leader?

I believe the best description and definition is how John Maxwell defined what a servant leader is.

A servant leader is someone “whose actions and motivations reflect a selfless commitment to a cause, an organization, or their teammates” (Kouzes & Posner). Compare this to a traditional leader, whose actions and motivations focus more on driving results and growing the organization.

The great thing about true servant leaders is that they also get results and grow the organization. John Maxwell calls it the Law of Addition, from his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership—leaders add value by serving others.

Now my question to anyone reading this blog is this. 

Can a Safety Professional Become a Successful Servant Leader?

Well, my answer is…………………………… YES!

With everything I’ve learned and keep learning about leadership, I have changed how I approach being a safety professional. I focus on building solid relationships with all people within the organization. I began to focus on this quote by John Maxwell.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

John’s quote got me thinking about changing my approach to the leadership group and the hourly workforce.

I began focusing on the hourly workforce because they determined the company’s success. To be successful, I should spend a lot of time on the ground and build relationships with all of them. I tell safety professionals that we should spend at least 70% or more (depending on your role) with the workforce. 

With my career in new roles and jobs, I started focusing on the workforce by spending much time on the floor and learning how they work. I focused on six components to generate my servant-leader mindset.

6 Components of How I Became a Servant Leader within My Safety Profession

To develop yourself as a servant leader, consider these six components to embrace your philosophy. 

  1. I Don’t Rely on My Position or Title: I’m grateful for my accomplishments, but I don’t rely on them to build me as a leader. Instead, I work to earn respect by following up on what people have asked for and by serving others to achieve their success. Leadership is not about a title; it’s about your passion for people.
  2. I Believe in People and Their Potential: As a passionate safety professional, I care about people. That is the right thing to do. But there are also practical reasons for believing in people. The more I support people and help them achieve success, the more I serve them, and the more their potential safe activities increase. That creates a secure win for everyone.
  3. I Try to See Things from the Workers’ Perspective: It’s possible to lead and serve others only when you know their behaviors, minds, and desires. Therefore, I intentionally connect with people and try to see from their point of view to serve them better. This creates a situation of helping solve problems and building more confidence in performing their jobs safely.
  4. I Actively Work to Create an Atmosphere of Encouragement: When you are willing to serve people, a culture of cooperation emerges where it’s “one for all and all for one.” That makes the environment positive and develops a sense of value and trust.
  5. I want to Listen and Take Action to Meet their Expectations: I focus on what they say, need, and desire when interacting with others. Listening is much more complicated than talking. I struggle to listen to people because I know all the answers thoroughly. But I’ve learned that I can succeed when I listen and act. With actions, you will gain respect and trust.
  6. I Determine My Success by How Much Value I Add to Others: When you decide to serve others, the team’s safety and success will become your success. I remember when I changed my approach and thought process. It felt like my world immediately expanded, and I began achieving success through the increased safe behaviors and commitments from the workforce.

I believe this is true—The degree to which you serve as a leader will determine your effectiveness.

I have met many safety leaders who exhaust themselves, day and night, looking for ways to get ahead and make it to the top. And to be clear, I don’t see anything wrong with desiring to progress in your career and achieve more success. However, you will only succeed if you focus on others.

John Maxwell says, “You’ve got to love your people more than your position.” That’s what servanthood is all about—putting the needs of your people before your aspirations.

Considering how you can become a person focused on others and not yourself will build your ability to become a servant leader. I am still consistently building servant leadership by working to serve others specifically on what they need and want. Sometimes I get frustrated and struggle with my want to serve them. However, I learned that being a strong, successful leader requires strong influence through your relationships. 

Please consider the six components and make all the necessary changes or improvements to your character. Ultimately, I want all Safety Professionals to become strong Servant Leaders, and we will succeed in reducing risk and preventing injuries!

“The best place for a leader isn’t always the top position. It isn’t the most prominent or powerful place. Instead, it’s where they can serve the best and add the most value to other people.” – John C. Maxwell.

Denis is an Executive Director for the John Maxwell Group and is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behaviorial Consultant. Denis is a senior safety professional and a strong, passionate influential person. He 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 for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.