Leadership lost and found

August 1, 2005 By    

We have recently seen the sentencing of leaders who failed to adhere to core values, standards and laws designed to protect stakeholders and stockholders alike.

 Jay Johnston, LP/Gas Magazine Columnist
Jay Johnston, LP/Gas Magazine Columnist

From Enron to World Com to Martha Stewart, we don’t have to look far to see examples of leadership gone awry in the name of commerce. We wink and nod and shake our heads, depending upon our own individual acts and interests, to reflect our own moral compass when it comes to business activities.

One owner complains; “Well, if we crossed every ‘T’ and dotted every ‘I,’ we’d spend all our time crossing ‘T’s’ and dotting ‘I’s.’ This is a business for cripes sake!”

Yet, the most successful businesses continue to be led by leaders who found their fortune in integrity, value and accountability. Crossing ‘T’s’ and dotting ‘I’s’ are fundamental core values that insulate and ensure success at all levels – including safety.

I was recently asked to estimate the cost of safety. To accurately quantify such a question, we must consider all factors in the process.

To be fair, we must allocate a portion of each expense as a cost of safety, all the way down to the percentage of PERC assessments allocated to safety, and insurance premium costs related to loss control expense. From there I would include hiring, turnover, training, personal protection equipment, safety meeting and leadership development costs. You may add your own costs.

It’s difficult to move forward when you only account for expense. A leader looks a little further down the road for benefits of safety rather than worrying only about the cost.

A certain percentage of the cost of expenses that impact the bottom line will reveal that it is the cost of claims that we should measure in relation to the value of our investment in safe practices. It’s far better to measure our good fortune and excellent experience while crediting our investment in safety as such.

So often in life we hold separate value systems when it comes to leadership. For example, profitability at the expense of safety can achieve acceptability assuming the numbers meet goals and no one gets hurt, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

I recently read an article about the value of an education. It mostly missed the point. The value of an education is to learn how to think; how to solve problems; how to get back when we are lost; how to find our core values; how to lead when others are lost.

Five-plus years ago I began writing The Safety Leader newsletter, a monthly publication dedicated to leadership development. It has a deeply disturbed yet loyal following. Last week a safety director took the time to write, “Thanks for your newsletter. I use it monthly to motivate and inspire our folks at safety meetings.”

At a time when we all have good excuses to moan about this and that, it’s exciting and refreshing to see extended leadership in action.

We all suffer when leadership is lost. We all rejoice when leadership is found.

Like a pebble thrown into a lake, the ripple impact of leadership found creates successful accomplishments that impact the bottom line.

Jay Johnston (www.thesafetyleader.com) is President of Jay Johnston & Associates, specializing in insurance consulting, safety communication design and educational safety seminars. He can be reached at 888-725-2705 or Jay@thesafetyleader.com.

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