Leading Safety with “Presence”

One of the most underrated success factors in leading safety culture is your ability to radiate a leadership presence. “Leadership presence” is that quality of leadership that causes people to want to cease the direction they’re going, and follow you instead. It’s the thing that captures their attention, commands their respect, and inspires them to act on your message.  So how do you radiate a leadership presence?  [password=”lead-presence”]First of all, lead and speak with confidence.  Confidence always translates into competence in the minds of those why are observing you.  And when someone views you as a competent leader, they’ll naturally want to follow.

Second, lead and speak with passion, with care and with concern for them and their well being.  This goes a long way toward building relationships of trust.  People tend to trust leaders who demonstrate they are looking out for them.

Third, lead and speak with authenticity, with transparency and genuineness.  People are inspired by leaders who respect them enough to be open and honest with them.

Keep in mind here that the way you deliver your message will impact how people perceive your leadership presence.  Establishing and maintaining eye contact is key here. People are rarely inspired by someone who will not look them in the eye.

The position of your body and the energy you exude also matters.  Standing up when delivering your message is better than sitting down.  Not only does it add strength to your voice, but it lets people know that what you’re about to say is important enough to call attention to it by standing.  If you must sit down, then make it a point not to appear listless.  Lean forward in your chair while speaking, and make eye contact with everyone.  And avoid falling into the habit of slumping back in your chair and speaking with little or no energy.  That communicates complacency.

Finally, build safety into every discussion you have about the job.  Don’t let any point be solely about operations, production or maintenance.  Always get them thinking about the hazards they face, and get them brainstorming about how they plan to eliminate those hazards.  The ultimate goal of a leadership presence is to inspire them to do the right thing and think the right way.  If you can get them thinking actively and with care and concern about their own safety and the safety of those around them, then you’ve done your job as a leader.

Well, that’s all the time we have for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time, be sure all your safety initiatives are built-in, not bolted on.


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About the Author

Eric Svendsen
Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.