September 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - September 2003

The view and vision is much clearer in front. Obstacles and hazards can be spotted better, which leads to better planning and greater success.

2003-2004 ASSE President James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP

Thoughts on Leadership

Many of us are preparing to meet this month in Chicago with the leaders of ASSE's chapters, regions and practice specialties. On thinking of leadership, several different definitions come to mind: "Shows the way by going first." "Directs by example." "Guides by persuasion or argument." "Guides by the hand." "Affords a passage." You can surely think of others.

Since being founded in 1911, ASSE has had a rich and storied history of leaders. Among them were the early "general chairmen"-A.A. Frazee, C. Van Horn and H.W. Mowrey-and presidents such as Fred Braun, Edward Landry, John Grimaldi, Edwin Locke, Marion Jones, Thomas Reilly, Delmar Tally, William Nebraska, Charles Dancer, James Brodrick, William Phillips, Phillip Ulmer, Margaret Carroll, Allen Macenski, Frank Perry and Mark Hansen to name a few.

Each of these leaders had a unique leadership style and possessed different strengths. Yet, they all had one thing in common: They were shepherds rather than herders. They were out in front, leading rather than trying to push from behind. The view and vision is much clearer in front. Obstacles and hazards can be spotted better, which leads to better planning and greater success. By contrast, a herder's eyes are clouded by dust from the path and s/he needs a good pair of barking dogs to encourage forward movement. Our challenge during the Leadership Conference is to give our current and future leaders the tools and ideas they need to move further in front.

In his presentation, "Hard Lessons: Leadership Is a Job," Dick Wells says that several key elements define a good leader. His concept of leadership implies that people will follow if they know where they are going and why. To be effective, leaders must do eight things:

  1. Define the current reality. Be honest and forthright in describing the situation at hand.

  2. Have a vision. Know where you want to go and-most importantly-where you currently are.

  3. Clearly explain why you are going there. Be willing and patient in the explanation.

  4. Develop a good plan for getting there. Plan for anticipated barriers, develop alternatives and contingencies.

  5. Assure the group that you can lead them there. People must believe a leader knows the way and will get them to their destination.

  6. Choose and develop other leaders. You can't be everywhere or do everything. And, at some point, you must turn the reigns over to a new leader.

  7. Be willing to take the first step. Depending on the situation, this step may be bold and daring or marked and cautious.

  8. Be ready to slay the wolves and dragons.

The Leadership Conference is a great opportunity for us to examine our role as leaders, and to build new skills, benchmark best practices and solidify a vision for the future.

James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP