Leadership abilities are a critical skill for SH&E professionals. Because few of us have direct line responsibilities, we achieve our goals by convincing others to follow our lead willingly.
There are many leadership theories. The “great man” theory suggests that leadership skills are inherent—we are born with them. The “trait” theory posits that leaders inherit certain traits and qualities which give them the potential to be leaders. The “behavioral” theory suggests that great leaders are made, not born.
Whether you are a natural-born leader, have leadership traits or need behavioral training, you still must grow those skills. This can be achieved in several ways with varying degrees of success. For example, you can take classes at a local college; most degree programs offer leadership as an elective course. Hundreds of leadership courses are available online. Various organizations offer leadership symposia as well.
Books are another resource. Barnes & Noble alone offers 70,101 books on leadership. That’s a lot of reading. But Jeb Blount, keynote speaker at ASSE’s 2010 Future Safety Leaders Conference, provides a road map for absorbing the knowledge in books. He says most leadership and management books can be read in 1 week by devoting just 15 to 20 minutes per day to reading. That means you can read 52 books per year.
When it comes to hands-on opportunities, getting involved in your local ASSE chapter or section is a great way to build your leadership skills. Volunteering in your ASSE chapter/section provides an opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills in a safe environment—you don’t have to worry about getting fired or demoted. Many leadership roles are available within the chapter and section structure, so you can start small and build. I started as my chapter’s newsletter editor.
Many employers look for areas where job candidates have exhibited leadership skills outside the workplace. Your ASSE leadership experience can bolster your chances of landing a job or getting a promotion. Your chapter/section experience is especially valuable when you have a limited work history.
Another way to grow these critical skills is to attend ASSE’s annual Leadership Conference. Each fall, chapter, section and practice specialty leaders gather for this free conference. Over the years, the conference has transitioned from a focus on how to complete chapter officer duties to a focus on leadership skills that can be applied at work as well as at the chapter, section or practice specialty level.
When selecting who should attend the conference, I encourage you to send your future leaders—those rising through the ranks—to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary leadership skills before they become president-elect and president. Consider the great example set by the Midnight Sun Chapter. Several years ago, the chapter sent a student member to ASSE’s Leadership Conference. That student became a full member after graduation and eventually became the chapter’s president.
This year’s Leadership Conference will be held Oct. 13-15 in Lombard, IL (Chicago area). Registration will open this month. Who will your chapter, section or practice specialty send to the conference? (Remember, CSPs and CIHs earn CEUs for attending.)
ASSE also hosts the Future Safety Leaders Conference for student members each year. This year’s conference will be Nov. 3-4 in Rosemont, IL. During this free conference, student members receive guidance on preparing resumes, interviewing, career building and leadership.
Attendance is limited, so students who wish to attend must complete a selection essay sheet and worksheet, located at www.asse.org/membership/student_fslc.php. All essays and worksheets must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept. 12, 2011.
Our main role as SH&E professionals is to convince others to do what is needed to preserve life, property and the environment. You can’t drive them to it, but you can lead them to it.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Make sure you have that skill.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”