Introduction

According to industry expert Dr. Dan Petersen, safety incidents are the result of organizational culture. Culture is heavily influenced by leadership behavior. "In all the research and benchmarking that has been done, it is clear that [in order to create a zero incident safety culture] primary emphasis must remain on management involvement. Management is the key." (Petersen, 8)

From his extensive experience in safety culture management, Dr. Petersen discerned six criteria for safety excellence, four of which are dependent upon leadership behavior. Executive management must be visibly committed to the zero-incident culture. Middle management must be actively involved. Front-line supervision must be focused on activities that drive safe behaviors. Employees must participate in creating the elements of the safety culture that affect them. Leaders at all levels must lead by example and create a participative environment that involves employees. To create a zero incident culture, leadership behavior must be addressed.

Leadership can be either positional, emergent, or both. Positional leaders are those who hold a leadership title, though a title alone does not make one an effective leader. An emergent leader surfaces when he/she earns the voluntary and passionate involvement of those he/she leads. They lead by example and have a strong, positive influence on those around them. Emergent leaders, positional or otherwise, are effective leaders.

To become an emergent leader and create a zero-incident culture, TAP into the three tenets of emergent leadership – building Trust, creating Accountability, and leading with Passion.

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