Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Time for Leadership Development

2012 ASSE President
Richard A. Pollock, CSP
Do you remember Yogi Berra? Baseball fans like me remember him as a great New York Yankees catcher. He was a 15-time All Star, won the American League MVP three times, played in 14 World Series and still holds many records some 50 years later.

Beyond baseball, Yogi is best known for his quirky statements. Consider this one, which I found while researching the topic of leadership:"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going because you might not get there."As crazy as they may sound, Yogi's words hold a great deal of wisdom about leadership. Leaders must have a vision and must be able to communicate and share that vision with others.

Great leaders also engender positive emotions among followers so they want to join together for a greater good. I recently heard ASSE past president Eddie Greer speak about leadership."Leadership is about learning to do what is right, because we can never rise above the limitations of our character," he said. "If we are going to serve as leaders, then we must have the trust of our followers. Character enables trust to exist and makes being a leader possible."

If a person isn't trustworthy who will follow? At its core, leadership truly is about influencing others, not about position. It is about engaging others, sharing your vision and moving people to action. Great leaders also earn respect over time by putting the good of the people and the organization ahead of any personal agenda. They exude optimism and a positive attitude, and help others see life as a series of great opportunities and exciting challenges.

Although he probably never saw himself that way, my father was a leader. He was a high-school teacher and football coach who was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. But beyond coaching championship teams, his greatest legacy was helping boys and girls develop into men and women by teaching them the importance of strong character, hard work, responsibility, integrity and selflessness. My father taught me that a leader is the one who helps others the most. He was right.

Do you see yourself as a leader? In studying leadership, I have found that most of us don't see ourselves as leaders, yet most of us want to improve our abilities in this area. Some contend that leadership can't be taught - either you have the ability or you do not. I disagree. Certainly, some people have stronger personalities or greater confidence, and others may have been in the right place at the right time.

However, during my career with ASSE and in business, most of the best leaders I've observed are just like you and me. We don't set out to be in charge, yet over time, as we take on responsibility, get things done, help others and build trust, we gain leadership knowledge and skills. Others value our assistance and ask "which way next."

Are you optimistic about the future? Do you have the ability to create a vision and influence others to follow? Why not take those feelings of optimism and opportunity to refocus, recommit and put plans into action to take a more active role in ASSE and your SH&E career?

The SH&E profession needs strong, effective leaders, and ASSE offers some excellent opportunities for us to build and develop our leadership skills. This fall, the Society will host its Leadership Conference for chapter, region and practice specialty leaders and its Future Safety Leaders Conference for outstanding student members. In addition, in November, ASSE will deliver "Safety Is All About Leadership,"a 2-day symposium in Orlando, FL. You can find details about any of these events on the Society's website.

Learning more about leadership and developing these vital skills will help us excel as SH&E professionals. I encourage you to attend at least one of these important events this fall. You will discover it is an investment well made. At its core, leadership is about influencing others, not about position. It is about engaging others, sharing your vision and moving people to action.