Lifelong Learning @ UNB
UNB College of Extended Learning

Leadership Development – An Outline of a Blueprint

Author: Glyn Jones, CRSP

Posted on Feb 22, 2021

Category: Professional Development

We need more safety leaders. A safety leader is someone who influences good decisions and positive behaviour. Safety leadership skills can be developed. We all need access to strong and formalized safety leadership development. This is the leadership imperative.

Accepting the leadership imperative that we need a mechanism, process and curriculum to help organizations develop good safety leaders, the obvious question is, how do we do it? I think everyone wishes there was an "easy button" for leadership development. Push the button and instantly gain the necessary leadership skills. The reality is we need a leadership development plan – or a leadership development blueprint. It isn’t difficult – we just need to be thoughtful and systematic about it.

Here is my blueprint for leadership development. It has been developed having studied the great leadership development gurus including Blanchard, Carnegie, Covey, Geller, Maxwell, and Peters. I have also had the opportunity to learn by experience having worked as a safety consultant and leadership coach for over 30 years. In my view, leadership development happens in four distinct phases: know yourself, know others, organizational leadership, and finally, putting leadership into action.

Visual representation of the four phases

Phase 1

Phase 1 is all about getting to know yourself. Before you can lead others, you must first learn to know who you are, know your strengths, and know your thinking and behavioural preferences. It was Polonius who said it best in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: "To thine own self be true". Be true to yourself and know yourself before you can think about ever being an effective leader of others.

In this part of the leadership development process, the focus is on you. An understanding of modes and styles of communication is required as part of the process of developing confidence. The art of the public speaking, becoming a great orator (or at least a better orator) is a focus. A review of personal effectiveness, time management, and professional skills is important. Presentation skills and effective writing need to be developed as part of developing your capacity to communicate.

Leadership development activities should include studying some of history’s greatest leaders and understanding what made them great. It would also include some careful introspection and self-assessment of behaviour and thinking preferences. A review and self-assessment of transferrable skills will be required and finally the completion of a "Strength-finders" and "Myers-Briggs" personality self-assessment is needed.

Phase 2

Phase 2 is all about getting to know others. Communication is a recurring theme here. Good communication is necessary to build strong and trusting relationships. Giving and receiving feedback is an art to be mastered. Understanding emotional intelligence (EO) and how to develop your capacity for EO is a goal in this phase of your development. Listening skills need to be developed. Team building is mission critical and the concept of and capacity to be part of high performance team is required. Team development requires you to develop an understanding of what it means to be a supervisor, tutor, coach and mentor. Great leaders are great coaches and willing mentors. Great leaders understand how to bridge cultural and multi-generational gaps and develop the intelligence needed to succeed.

Phase 3

Phase 3 is all about getting to know the inner working of the organization you want to lead. Whether your goal is to be a leader at work or in the community, understanding how the organization functions is needed before you can hope to lead. If for example your goal was to be a leader at CSSE, the first step would be to learn about its structure and governance. Understanding the leadership roles, leadership pathways and competencies would be a requirement. Accessing and studying data on the organization will be required. In the case of leadership at CSSE, a review of membership survey results and a study of the member-value proposition will be needed. Regardless of the organization you want to lead, understanding strategic planning, enterprise risk management and succession planning will be part of your leadership development. Your capacity to build the team strength needs to shine at this point and understanding conflict resolution, ethical decision-making, the art of negotiation, project management, networking, and how to energize a team will be important leadership skills.

Phase 4

Phase 4 is all about putting all of the pieces together and getting out there to lead. Every great apprenticeship starts with a great mentor. You will need to find a mentor, someone you respect and look up to as a modern-day, everyday leader. Great leaders and your future mentor can be found in your workplace, in your community or within your current circle of friends. Every great leader had at least one mentor!

Recognizing the need to go through the natural growth phases: apprentice, journeyman, craftsman and ultimately reaching the artisan leader status is all part of your leadership development journey. Great leaders keep a journal of their leadership development journey and you should too.

At this stage, it is important to understand that one of the most important things you can do to continue your development is to demonstrate what a good leader looks like and acts like every day. As you develop good leadership skills, the chances are that people around you take notice, they will become aware of your developing skills, and they will copy them.

Leadership development is a process. There is no "silver bullet". Your leadership development will be a journey or a practice without an endpoint. Leadership is a way of thinking about the world and how you interact with it. Regardless of where you are on the journey, it is important to remember that all great leaders follow some variation on these five simple points:

  1. Be a Model Leader – Know yourself, find your voice, and set a good example.

  2. Provide Inspiration and Articulate your Vision – Be able to describe to others the future state you envision and allow them to want to come with you.

  3. Challenge the Status Quo – Leaders are change agents for the good. Look for these opportunities and try new things and be willing to take risks.

  4. Be an Enabler of the Good – Build engagement and enhance collaboration for the benefit of others. Your greatest success is enabling the success of others.

  5. Encourage the Many – Recognize the contributions of others and celebrate victories small and large.

Leadership is hard but the return on investment will be significant for you in your career. Get to work on developing your safety leadership skills whether it includes a formalized leadership program in your community or simply is a short session on any aspect of leadership development discussed. The time is now to start on your journey. Keep your eyes open for the opportunities; there are those around you who will help you along.

Glyn is a Regional Vice-President of Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. He is partner at EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary and is a consulting occupational health and safety professional with 30 years of experience. He can be reached at