The Best Vs. The Worst by Mackenzie Wilson

#4 Felt Leadership: Are They Feeling it?

by Mackenzie Wilson / Based on the following SafeConnection panels

SafeStart author Larry Wilson asked an important question when moderating a SafeConnection Expert Panel recently: could ‘felt leadership’ be the key to world class safety performance, to the glittering prize of zero harm?

Expert view: The panellists were unanimous. Felt leadership is necessary but will not take your company over the line. “Yes – it starts from there”, said Ahmed Khalil, Director of EHS at BABCO Middle East, “but the leaders themselves can’t make everything happen on their own; everyone in the organisation needs to make [safety excellence] happen.”

Key insight from SafeStart’s Larry Wilson: “Giving leaders some practical tools that they could actually see themselves using, like Rate Your State or Anticipating Error conversations would be a good place to start”. Why? Sometimes leaders feel uncomfortable doing site walkarounds or lack effectiveness because they might not have technical knowledge at the level they’d like

Making it work in the real world: Okay, felt leadership can work if done right, but what are the panellists’ tips on crossing the bridge between management commitment and employee belief in that commitment and openness to the health and safety message?

Don’t forget the contractors, cautioned Larry Wilson! Panellists around the world agreed wholeheartedly:

Key insight from SafeStart: a lot of HSE or top managers get a value for safety from an adverse event in the past, for example an event with a tragic outcome. “That’s a hard lesson to learn”, said Teg Matthews, Vice President at SafeStart, “so there is a responsibility on the rest of us to teach people that value without having to learn that lesson the hard way”.

Take Aways

  • Beyond the obvious good it does, world class safety is also a competitive advantage.
  • Felt Leadership is necessary to achieve safety culture excellence, but safety excellence requires an effective communication system to garner employee buy-in.
  • Leadership needs to be exhibited at all levels, even the supervisory level, and involve the contractors as much as the employees.
  • Use the right language and examples for the right audience, from the boardroom to the shop floor.
¹ Based on SafeConnection panels on North America, Europe, The Middle East, India and Asia.
² All opinions expressed in here are purely those of the panelists. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of SafeStart and the panelists’ companies.
³ For more information about the SafeConnection Expert Panels and to watch past or current sessions, please visit

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