An Interview with Julius Rhodes, SPHR Essential Leadership Competencies for HSE Professionals

Julius Rhodes

No one knows if leaders are born or made, but leadership is a requirement in the safety profession. Julius Rhodes, SPHR, has been an ASSE annual conference favorite for the last 15 years, presenting on various leadership topics.

This year Rhodes’s session, Essential Leadership Competencies for HSE Professionals, promises to provide attendees with an expanded view of leadership, to help them exhibit four key forms of leadership to execute the OSH role more holistically and consistently.

“It is designed to provide attendees with a more comprehensive and robust understanding of the areas of leadership that are required to be displayed on a consistent basis,” Rhodes says. “It will improve how you are viewed by other organizational stakeholders.”

Specifically, Rhodes will focus on the ways leadership can and must be displayed in four key areas; the head (thinking), the eyes (observation), hands (action) and heart (feeling). Rhodes experience is based on more than 30 years of personal experience and observation.

Change is never easy, so how does a safety professional transform an employee’s thinking to be more open to change, specifically a positive shift in safety practices? “The best way I've found to accomplish this is through repetition,” Rhodes says. “People follow what they see you do more than what you say.”

For instance, if combustible material around machinery that operates at high temperatures has been an issue, when you see that material you need to address. “Do not rely on someone else to pick it up or address it, your desire to change safety practices will not be successful.”

Based on his experience, Rhodes believes that most leaders fail when it comes to believing they must do it all or make all the decisions. Another critical area is that they are unable to connect well with the people they are leading.

To minimize the gap between leadership’s expectation and performance, Rhodes advises that you have clear, achievable expectations. When you are given unrealistic expectations, you must be able to have difficult conversations regarding expectations and what is reasonable, Rhodes says.

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