By: Dianne Rawlings

During this unprecedented time, we find ourselves receiving information, strategies, and management ideas from ‘experts’ with many different leadership styles.  Whilst Covid is being managed in most Australian states and I’m hearing great news from our team in SA and ACT/NSW, here in Victoria there is a blame game happening where almost everyone has an opinion on what a ‘leader’ does, doesn’t do or should be.   

This got me thinking, at RME we often talk about a client’s ‘appetite for health and safety’ in establishing their requirements and what services or programs would be the most beneficial for them and their organisation.  There are many different ideas that cement someone’s reasoning of risk in their business.  For example, a small business may manage their risk through their personal experiences positive or negative, or the experiences of others, some may be relatable to the need of certification to promote or receive business, and for organisations, with boards, it is widely recognised that health and safety is a corporate governance issue and that the board should integrate health and safety into the main governance structures. 

The Institute of Directors, in the publication (INDG417) Leading Health and Safety at Work, state that “protecting the health and safety of employees or members of the public who may be affected by your activities is an essential part of risk management and must be led by the board. 

While many organisations acknowledge the need for better health and safety management, many also feel what can be a cumbersome day to day regulatory requirements, for example, inductions are an overly time-consuming issue that is constantly sent to the bottom of the list.  

The above-referenced article goes on to say, “Failure to include health and safety as a key business risk in board decisions can have catastrophic results.  Many high-profile safety cases over the years have been rooted in failures of leadership.”  Our own Dreamworld incident is a suitable reference here, nobody thinks it will happen to them but when it does it is catastrophic.   

Health and safety law places duties on organisations and employers, and directors can be personally liable when these duties are breached: members of the board have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety”. 

So as a primary duty holder or PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking), whether you’re a board member, owner, director, CEO, GM, or manager –  

What is your definition of a leader? 

Is there a link between your leadership style and how you manage health and safety? 

Leadership skills as a duty holder 

  • Model and promote standards set by your organisation – Lead by example 
  • Be proactive, not reactive – Motivate 
  • Be impartial and fair 
  • Promote consultative and collaborative approaches 
  • Provide information, advice, training, coaching, and mentoring 
  • Establish key performance indicators to measure safety 
  • Make informative and collaborative decisions 
  • Comply with organisations policies and procedures – WHScode of conduct, etc. 
  • Act honestly and in good faith 
  • Maintain and enhance the reputation of the organisation 

What is your leadership style?

Authoritarian leadership style 

  • Gives directions 
  • Does not consult with the team 
  • Good for fast decisions in high-risk situations 
  • Does not encourage creativity 
  • Can be seen as dictatorial 

Participative (democratic) leadership style 

  • Is approachable 
  • Is concerned about team morale 
  • Keeps members informed 
  • Acts as a facilitator 
  • Consults 
  • Is considerate 
  • Supports people when they make mistakes 
  • Gives positive feedback for good performance 
  • Copes with change 
  • Resolves conflict 

Delegative leadership style 

Will allow: 

  • Self-managing teams 
  • Team to set goals 
  • Team to set job roles 
  • Team to set tasks and priorities 
  • The hands-off approach