you are a leader. - American Society of Safety Engineers

Good morning, leaders! Wasn’t Lucia excellent yesterday? What
a way to start our leadership conference!
Thank you for the warm reception and for making the time and
effort to join us at this year’s ASSE Leadership Conference.
Like so many professional societies, we set aside time each year
to promote the idea of leadership while at the same time
enhancing leadership skills for those moving up through our
Society as well as through their individual careers.
Leadership is a central part of everything we do as a Society and
everything you do as a professional.
And so, ASSE encourages each of us to hone the unique skills
we find in strong leaders.
In fact, organizational or operational success depends upon
sound leadership.
So a natural question to ask is what makes a strong leader?
John Quincy Adams, America’s sixth president and one many
regarded as being among our brightest presidents said:
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do
more and become more…you are a leader.
More recently, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
And, Andrew Carnegie the great American industrialist who
amassed his fortune in the steel industry before becoming one of
nation’s greatest philanthropist, said:
No one will make a great leader who wants to do it all herself
(himself) or get all the credit for doing it.
Inspiration, Influence, innovation, inclusion-- it would be hard for
one to argue against these four ideals as being important qualities
in the character of a strong leader.
We also know successful leaders must always be willing to adapt
to surrounding circumstances and to some degree master the
unique interaction of people, personalities, challenges and other
nuances that make each situation at least a little different from
anything anyone has ever faced before.
(Is Sue Trebswether in the audience?) Sue is the Editor of
Professional Safety Journal. In last month’s issue of Professional
Safety Journal, I opened my President’s Message with a quote
from Peter Sheahan, author of “Flip: How to Turn Everything You
Know on its Head—and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest
Speaking on the rapid pace of today’s dynamic global
marketplace, Sheahan said:
“Things are changing faster and faster, new opportunities
and new markets are opening up every day…it is important
to understand exactly what is changing and what impact this
is having on your existing business.”
What Sheahan is talking about here is intuition - the ability to see
the opportunity out of change.
This is what Steve Jobs would call—innovation. Not just adapting
but creating the “Next Big Thing.”
So inspiration, intuition, innovation and inclusion are all
characteristics of a strong leader.
But just as important—is knowing what does not constitute a
strong leader.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was both humorous and
instructive when he said:
You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s
assault, not leadership.
He raises a good point here, too, because there are many things
that are the antithesis of being a strong leader, but are often
mistaken for the qualities or privileges of one who successfully
For instance, being a strong leader is not about always being
Strong leadership is not about having the biggest title, the corner
office or the largest salary. (all potential accoutrements, but if this
is the focus—you are “missing the plot” of good leadership!
Opportunities and the absolute need for us to serve business as
strong leaders are right in front of you.
So how do we get from here to there?
How do we, as a professional community and as individual
professionals, bridge the leadership gap?
Well, for us, leadership starts with knowing the business
environment in which we operate; and by that I mean knowing the
what, why and how of the corporate entities we serve so that we
may clearly and effectively contribute to the organization’s
profitability, productivity, sustainability, governance, supply chain
accountability, brand identity and so on.
If we can make the business case for our value then everyone—
you, our profession, the business world—other stakeholder
groups will benefit. And for us that translates for safe and health
workplaces with no environmental impacts.
Our value is in Assuring Safety, Health and environmental risk is
managed within our organizations. That knowledge—our
knowledge—fits into the overall strategy of any business.
CEOs, CFOs, BODs, investors, the operations side of our
organizations all understand risk. It is the language of business.
But Business often does not get our connection to the viability of
the organization That is where your leadership comes in.
We need to be relentless in our quest to understand the business
environment in which we operate and to identify, assess, and
communicate Safety, health and environmental risks to our
organizational leaders.
Knowledge is powerful.
That knowledge—our expertise—creates value when we are able
to communicate how OSH & environmental risks could affect the
business: its workforce, its brand and its reputation.
And in doing this, we assure we are ahead of the curve as we
collaboratively develop strategies to manage those risks.
That’s leadership!
It may go without saying—But it must be said—WE are all
…leading within our organizations and within ASSE.
…understanding and integrating OSH & E into the business
…, identifying, assessing and communicating OSH&E risk
internally and sometimes externally
… and about knowledge, value and being an asset to our
I mentioned earlier the great steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s
support for inclusion as a tenet of strong leadership.
Building strong partnerships within your organization, with all
stakeholders along your career journey, is essential to your
success. Partnerships and collaboration provide mutual benefit.
Collaboration is the name of the game if we are to move
workplace safety into its position of optimal return on investment
for businesses and, just as important, for ourselves.
Too often leadership is wrongly viewed and valued from the
perspective of individuality.
Often we think of the great individual leaders who have helped
write the chapters of our human history—great women and men
whose names are as indelibly etched in our collective conscious.
But in truth, real leadership and the strong leaders who embody it
have always done so in partnership and as a collaborative effort.
After all—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not march on Washington
by himself; nor did he, himself, sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
And yet, the unparalleled greatness of his heroic leadership is
beyond question.
The late great, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher worked with the
British Parliament, not in exile of it, in reviving England’s economy
and saving the Falkland Islands from Argentine takeover.
But by virtue of her leadership, she will forever be remembered as
Great Britain’s Iron Lady – who in the face of doubt, SUCEEDED.
Great leadership is always a joint effort and never a solo
Great leaders know how and when to use all the instruments at
their disposal, not orchestrating success by playing it alone.
We are here today because ASSE is a partner in your leadership
So please, use these two days to absorb everything you can
about becoming a great leader and a successful workplace
professional in today’s ever-changing, rapidly expanding, highly
complex and competitive business world.
John F. Kennedy once said:
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
This Leadership Conference exemplifies this quote. You see,
ours is a Society and a profession that is wholly dedicated to the
idea of lifelong learning.
And know that as you learn, as you develop and hone your skills
as a leader, you are simultaneously helping to create more strong
leaders by modeling the very leadership characteristics you are
looking to hone.
Modeling and mentoring are a big part of strong leadership.
As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook wrote in her book, “Lean
I feel grateful to the people who encouraged and helped me
develop. Nobody can succeed on their own.
I began today by talking about four “Is” of strong leadership:
Inspiration, Intuition, Innovation and Inclusion.
There is a fifth —the one Eisenhower called, “leadership’s
supreme quality.”
And that last “I”…the supreme quality…is integrity.
Integrity is the one element of leadership we, as professionals,
tend to have in great abundance.
We need only to extend the application of professional integrity as
we pursue strong leadership.
I want to leave you with just one more insight on leadership.
It comes from a 20th century leader despite her never having held
public office, run a successful company or win an athletic
What I like about this thought - is that in its honesty is the
inspiration to understand and accept that like most everything
else, your leadership and the success you enjoy as a leader…is a
choice you make every day. And I quote:
A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader
takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but
ought to be.
This insightful quote is from Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. .
ASSE wants to take you where you ought to be and where we
need to be.
ASSE has led you here; but it is you, all of you, who will lead
ASSE into our future.
So today and tomorrow, think about Connecting the dots with
each other as part of ASSE’s leadership Community.
I am here, as is the rest of your ASSE board of directors. Come
find us, and let’s share our leadership successes and challenges,
whether it is in a chapter, section, CIG or Practice specialty. I
look forward to speaking with you.
We are glad you are here!
Enjoy the conference.
I would like to introduce Fred Fortman, our ASSE Executive