When considering safety and system performance organizations often consider high-level strategies and ways to achieve compliance. These are important steps in the pursuit of operational excellence. In the process, leaders may focus on overarching methods to tie success with compliance, and may perhaps miss the underlying value associated with leadership by their middle managers and front line supervisors. These employees can be a very important source of information when it comes to developing ways to improve safety and production performance. They can also be a great source of innovative ideas for improving safety performance that go beyond compliance.
"While middle managers and front line supervisors may not be the ones creating grand visions of the organization’s future, or building major coalitions within the company, they play key leadership roles in their functional areas. This is a key point to emphasize; leadership activities do not only reside at the executive level, and mid-level managers and front line supervisors can work to inspire their teams or crews towards achievement of the objectives and goals that are linked to the larger vision. Additionally, at the smaller team level, strong leadership serves as the “glue” that binds team actions together and links these actions to a larger purpose. " (Cadieux 20)
By allowing subordinate leaders, managers, and front line supervisors to participate in the strategy development and execution process top level leaders may be able to gain insights in methods that can link strategy and vision to actionable steps that work to go beyond compliance. These junior leaders (even if the word "leader" is not in their title) often know how to get the job done and in some cases this may even include safer methods.
I describe these concepts in more detail in Volume 1, Issue 3, Autumn Edition of The Leader, the magazine of the Voluntary Protection Program Participants' Association (VPPPA). If you would like to learn more about the value of leveraging leadership you can read the full article on pages 18-21 of the The Leader .
By following a few simple guidelines for developing and empowering leaders and front line supervisors, organizations may find gains in safety and production performance they didn't know were possible.
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