By John Jacobi
There are many definitions of leadership. I did a little research. Kevin Kruse wrote a short article in Forbes titled “What is Leadership?” (see https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/04/09/what-is-leadership/#3e7a28455b90). He discusses what leadership is NOT and how some of our most respected business thinkers define leadership. I really like Kruse’s definition of leadership: “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards achievement of a goal.” He describes the key elements of his definition as follows:
- Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power
- Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports”
- No mention of personality traits, attributes, or even a title; there are many styles, many paths, to effective leadership
- It includes a goal, not influence with no intended outcome
Notice his last key element: a GOAL! In this case the goal is safety. Safety first! Right? Maybe not. How safe is safe? I was watching a Tucker Carlson Show rerun last night (apparently this particular segment was from May 2018) and Tucker brought up the then-recent news story of a 30-year-old man who was successfully sued by his parents to move out. Tucker’s guest was Mike Rowe (of the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs and now a spokesperson for the Common Ground Alliance). To quote Rowe: “There’s a fissure running through the expectation of what happens when we elevate ‘safety’ and feelings to a level of primacy. I think it creates a real disconnect people are struggling to parse.” And, “If safety is the priority, then let’s just wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and drive at speeds approaching five miles an hour.” As Courtney Kirchoff commented, Rowe was and is right. “Safety first” means risk second, or third, or fourth. If a job site or workplace prioritizes “your safety first” then someone else has to put your safety above everything else. This takes the responsibility of YOUR safety away from YOU. As Rowe said, there’s an unintended consequence of putting “safety first” on other people. It has come back to kick us in the throat. Now we have legions of fools who cede their safety, and other chunks of their lives like healthcare, finances, etc., to a third party. Like government.
We do not live in a “risk free” society. Every act or omission has consequences. Unless we are willing to accept the consequences of acting or refusing to act, we, as a society, can never achieve anything.
What are our goals? I like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I also like feeling safe and secure. For example, take driving a car. I still drive a car. Drivers in Houston are probably not the best in the world. I am not so much worried about my driving as I am the driving of others. I will, if absolutely necessary, drive in states like California and New York. But I am extra cautious for two reasons – First, I am not familiar with the roads there and second, such states are not particularly concerned about the safety of their citizens. Clearly, my driving safety is MY responsibility – especially in states like California and New York.
YOUR safety is YOUR responsibility!! Be a LEADER not a fool ceding YOUR safety to others!!
John Jacobi retired from PHMSA.
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