In these days, where every politician across the world especially in the last 35 years are crooks, goons, scoundrels, it is amazing that even 50 years after death, John F Kennedy is cherished by people across the world. JFK would have been 100 today. While I am averse to politics and won’t mix politics in to EHS blog, I can’t help but post the leadership qualities and contribution of JFK in to national building , the American Pride as well as leap-frog science and technology, civic rights and above all a care for environment. He,a man who influenced me a lot and lot in my thinking and being wired in to what I think!! (Some may feel, I am anti national in my EHS engagement, but do I care!!??) So what EHS folks can learn from his life??
So what leadership traits makes a great leader! What EHS Folks can pick up from JFK and show the leadership qualities that matter to succeed in everything we do and influence people.
- Lead:– Leadership is more about influencing people to inspire, motivate, engage with people around you. Make people “FEEL” good. Remember you are a Leader to folks who look up to you, irrespective of your position in the hierarchy.
- Purpose and Vision:- You as EHS professional have a purpose of keeping people safe, making sure that the 206 bones are intact when they reach back home from work! While sustainability, environment, IH, Facilities, etc etc are nice to do, nothing comes before keeping people safe & alive! JFK made this statement on Moon mission- To bring back the man safely.
- Strategic planning & People :– Leadership is all about Strategic planning of what would things looks like 3-5 years down the line! EHS Folks should always consider the aspects from Political, Social, Legal, Economical, People aspects of what the big picture would look like in EHS in terms of Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats and work the action plan to be ready. JFK was razor-sharp on Russia& cold war; it was #1 to Infinity and everything secondary and threw the kitchen sink if required. EHS folks need to work with the team through persuasion, coaching, influencing. JFK team was one of the best ever assembled. JFK pulled people who were reluctant to join his cabinet with his persuasion skills.
- LEARNING:– In the modern days of 2017, everything is outdated in weeks, months or years. EHS folks need to keep themselves abreast on the learning curve! EHS is expanding to cover safety, health, environment, sustainability, ergonomics, product stewardship, Industrial hygiene, occupational medicine, Legal aspects, Facilities, Security and vulnerability, Business continuity etc etc. These are all interlinked and plays a useful part to problem solving. While learning, there can be failures, take it up head on and be humble to learn from situations. JFK botch up was Cuban missile crisis which could have been anticipated better and plans worked. He said he learned a lot from the crisis.
- Measure:- What gets measured gets done! EHS Folks need to measure everything in terms of metrics. If it can’t be measured, dont do it! If it is difficult to measure, set proxy metrics to begin with and improve. JFK metric in 1961, as an example was to bring back the man from the moon safely before the end of decade which was achieved July 1969.
Empower:– ESH folks can’t be everywhere, you need to develop people and empower them as your spokesperson who would be your eyes and ears. People need to feel that they are part of the mission/values/vision/programs. JFK brought that sense in Moon Landing mission. (NASA-JANITOR)
- Anticipate:- While engaged in accomplishing results, anticipate and have plan B for things that may not go the way you plan. Even the best laid plans go astray when the best in class army puts its boots on the ground. A good risk assessment with linkage to mitigation with engineering excellence as focus can lead to better results. in JFK’s case, the Moon landing mission lead to issues that crept up on Science and Computers which were speeded up to resolve issues.
- Show by example, Just do it!! :- EHS folks need to be in action with technical excellence on subjects to strengthen the case! That can not happen unless the folks dirty their hands with do it and show to others how it is being done. That way people can’t bullshit and get away especially the managers who are “WOLVES clad in Sheepskin” who pretend that nothing can be done and evade issues. EHS folks need to tackle them head on and show how it is done. In JFK’s case, during a combat mission near Japanese water, he helped rescue 11 survivors from a sinking torpedoed vessel PT 109, and carried one of the seriously injured over water for 4 miles to a nearby small island. They were rescued after 15 hours from the island.
- Communicate:– Enough said, it is hallmark of EHS folks, Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Be visible, engage, involve in communication. Folks would say they heard once, when you said 7 times. Communication is what the listener perceives. So make sure the interpretation of message is what was intended. JFK Moon mission speech so clear that there is no other interpretation and world was energized as well as America got its spine back to work the magic after being outmanuvered in Space by Russian’s in Yuri Gagarin’s Sputnik mission!
- Last but not the least:- LISTEN:- The more you listen, the more you hear, more you interpret. Nature itself has worked it with two ears and one mouth indicating to us to listen more! EHS being a broad domain, folks can’t know all to speak all, they must listen a lot to process information and work the decision. In JFK’s time he listened a lot to Rev. Martin Luther King to make a path for civil liberties with his Attorney General brother,which his successor Lyndon Johnson worked the reality.
Last but not the least, JFK was a man who worked the work life choice perfectly. A man who always focused a lot on his personal life. As the youngest ever president at 43, with Kids aged 3 and 1 in the oval office, no wonder JFK focussed a great balance between family and presidency. If an American #POTUS can do it (The most powerful job in the world) we ordinary human being have no excuse to put our family first.!!
Take it easy, take care, stay safe, God Bless
JFK at 100 (29th May 2017)