Practical Guide to Safety Leadership – an evidence-based approach
Wednesday 14th March 2018
Here, in seven chapters, psychologist and management consultant Luke Daniel brings together research and personal experience. He uses both to offer pointers to help managers gain a better awareness of their organisation's culture and what to do should change be needed.
After a brief scene-setter, Daniel devotes a chapter to defining safety leadership and tries to compare and contrast it with other leadership types. He looks specifically at behaviours and offers a safety leadership model based on RAVE (relationships, authenticity, vision and engagement).
There follows a chapter on culture ("the DNA of an organisation") and a compilation of new perspectives, with insights from five other contributors, including renowned safety thinker Professor Sidney Dekker. The book concludes with his reflections on how managers can ensure both the success and the sustainability of cultural leadership interventions. There's also some horizon scanning: this involves a restatement of the book's key messages.
Is it a "practical guide" as the title suggests? There is a great deal of practical wisdom in the 200 pages but readers will have to work hard to tease it out. Though almost all the chapters end with a case study and important learning points, I did not see the clear action tips that I was expecting.
There are, however, important messages: all leadership depends on being able to talk to people; people won't go along with safety initiatives unless they think they will make a difference; and technical skills may land you a senior leadership role, but you'll then need people skills if you are to have any hope of success.
The blurb says this book "goes beyond mere slogans or anecdotal stories" (aren't anecdotes and stories the same thing?) but I gained a lot from the anecdotes. They keep grounded what could otherwise have been a rather conceptual book. They also add authenticity. Anecdotes are a powerful leadership tool.
As the book says, "communicating through stories helps elevate a message and creates personal connectedness to the person speaking". I'd certainly endorse this from my own experience: I will never forget listening to our new technical director tell a room full of sceptical colleagues how, as a young manager, he had to knock on someone's door to tell them that their partner had been badly burned in a fire at the plant where they worked. I don't expect anyone else who heard that deeply personal message about the importance of prevention will have forgotten it either.