In response to many clients' frustrations with their return on investment from traditional safety leadership training (e.g., Courageous Leadership), my company has been working hard to develop a leadership model that we now call "Evidence-Based LeadershipTM". Evidence-Based LeadershipTM is not leadership training. Rather, it is a process of customizing leadership for a particular organization and systematically measuring leaders' actions as they impact what others do to achieve key organizational outcomes. Safety improvement is inevitably a key outcome that my clients are seeking and thus this model works well in conjunction with the Behavior-Based Safety work that I have been doing for more than a decade.

The Model

Evidence-Based LeadershipTM (EBL) proposes that most poor business outcomes are produced by too much or too little behavior. Moreover, consistent with the Behavior-Based approach to injury prevention, EBL presumes that if you want to change results, you must:

  • know the result you want and measure it,

  • know what behaviors are necessary to produce that result and measure them,

  • change what people are doing to produce that result.

Therefore, a fundamental assumption of EBL is that some leadership behaviors are not important to producing the results desired by an organization. As a result, those behaviors get in the way of the leadership behaviors that are necessary and sufficient to produce the results one is seeking.

The point above is important to understanding why so much leadership training is not effective. Specifically, if leaders are trained to do things that don't directly impact what people do and they spend time doing that, there is less time left-over to do the things that really make a difference.

Given this, EBL has the effect of making leadership more effective and efficient because it defines what is "necessary and sufficient for leaders to be doing to get the best desired result."

Defining the Territory of EBL

A majority of my work in leadership has been done at the level of a specific facility within a larger organization. Thus, leadership typically involves the site general manager and his or her direct reports as well as their direct reports all the way down to those front-line supervisors who have responsibility for at least one other person. Thus, we're defining a leader as anyone who has at least one person directly reporting to them. Specifically, to be considered a leader, you must have a follower. (Informal leaders in an organization can benefit from this process. However, the approach would be very different and could be the topic of another paper altogether.)

Once our leadership group is defined, we define the outcomes or results we're seeking (or that the leaders are held accountable for). The results for which a specific site are responsible are most often tied to the vision, mission, and goals of the company. Often, the organization has already clearly defined what key performance indicators (KPIs) they will use to measure success.

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