Four industry leaders discuss the impact of the pandemic on leadership styles over the past 12 months.
Andy Anderson CMIOSH
Health and safety manager, Amazon
The pandemic has focused minds on leadership, as it has had a direct impact on leaders’ ability to perform successfully. Engagement is now daily, and updates and actions are owned by senior leads much more readily. Collective effort has improved safety culture, with other safety risks given much more time and attention. The requirement to put forward a business case to demonstrate the benefits of a safety initiative has dramatically reduced, with the green light being given much more willingly. It has been a tragic year but it will bring a lasting benefit to employees in the future, with safer workplaces.
Chris Clark CMIOSH
SHE adviser, Morgan Sindall Group
As organisations have relied more on the advice and guidance of safety professionals to pilot them through the miasma of government and industry guidance, we have seen a greater ‘affiliative style’ approach from leaders within organisations as they communicate the arrangements to work safely. Leaders are putting their people first and are connecting with the workforce through regular blogs, company updates and electronic communication platforms to engage with their employees on a professional and personal level. This will create greater unity, organisational ownership and the desire to achieve goals in the safest possible way while putting people first.
Antonio Javier Gaspar Marichal CMIOSH
EHS manager, Dematic
An ability to adapt quickly to the shifting environment will enable a leader not only to lead but to lead well. Their role is to develop and build capacity in others, and they must lead with empathy and trust. It is the quality of interactions between the leader and their followers that makes the difference, regardless of styles. Organisational success relies on shifting from hierarchical modes of operation to one where decision-making is delegated to subject matter experts, and employees are empowered and engaged in co-design and joint problem-solving.
Lynda Parkinson CMIOSH
Health and safety lead, HB Projects Ltd
Trying to keep up with – or even slightly ahead – of changes in policy around working through COVID has meant constant assessment of the workplace, the local situation and government mood. Adaptive leadership has become a must-have skill. The past year brought into sharp focus the fact that change happens constantly. Not at the current pace, granted, but organisations and leaders have to stay agile to succeed. Leaders who have moved beyond transactional ‘level 1’ relationships and embraced a whole-person approach have found more success in keeping their workforce motivated.