When you think of a leader, who comes to mind? Is it your boss, a company CEO, a celebrity, an athlete, a friend? What do you think makes them a leader? Is it their job, their personality, or something else?
There are many types of leaders, and it’s impossible to list out the exact definitive traits of a good leader. What we can do, though, is debunk a few myths that may be misleading you. You may even find safety leaders in your company that you had been overlooking all this time. To make the most of your safety culture, don’t let these seven common myths about leadership fool you anymore:
1. Leaders are the few at the top
Leaders can be anyone. “Leader” isn’t a job title; it’s a personal responsibility. There are leaders at all levels within a company with all different job descriptions. So, yes, some leaders might be at the top of the company’s framework; but, no, that’s not the only place you’ll find them. Look around on the job and see if you can identify a few safety leaders in your work area.
2. Good leaders are outspoken
Some good leaders are outspoken; that’s true. However, another great way to lead is by example. Being a leader is like being a role model or setting an example. So if being outspoken works for your leadership style, then there’s no problem. A good safety leader can use either style to lead those around them.
3. Leaders need to have all the answers
We often look to leaders for answers and advice, but sometimes they simply don’t know the answers. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing—it just means that they’re human and they need to work toward finding an answer. A big part of being a leader involves finding or creating answers to the tough questions (with help, of course).
4. Leaders give orders, not follow them
Part of being a leader involves giving orders and delegating tasks, but another part of being a leader is working together with a team and pulling some weight. Following regulations is a really big deal for safety leaders, and speaking up to correct unsafe actions is also a big deal. Good leaders should know when to give orders and when to follow them.
5. Leadership comes with time or age
Experience can make us feel more confident, so many leaders do arise after some time on the job; but that isn’t to say that all experienced employees become leaders or that all leaders are seasoned employees. Sometimes the best safety leaders are newer employees who have training fresh in their minds.
6. Leadership and management are the same thing
One of the biggest misconceptions is that managers are always leaders and leaders are always management. It’s likely that good leaders are hired as or promoted to managers because of their strong leadership qualities, but this isn’t always the case. Some great leaders can be found in unexpected roles, and many managers are so designated for other good qualities.
7. A position makes a leader
Being put into a new role doesn’t change your personality traits or your leadership abilities. A job title doesn’t give you a leader’s qualities; your actions do. Any employee on the floor can set an example to be a strong safety leader.
Now that you’ve gotten a better idea of what a leader really looks like, are there different figures that come to mind when you think of a leader? Try to go to work with a different mindset and see if there are any unexpected leaders around that you hadn’t noticed before.