EHS Leadership Takes Center Stage in 2021

There is no doubt that 2020 has not been a great year for most organizations, no matter if you’re a business, a nonprofit, or a government agency. The multilayered impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s health and wellness and has pushed people responsible for workplace safety in directions they have never had to contemplate before.
There have been few times in our history when the role of leadership has been so important. During a crisis, teams are looking to leaders to provide guidance, support, and direction, and COVID-19 has been perhaps the largest crisis that most people currently in leadership positions have faced. There are many good leaders who have been pushed to their breaking point while exploring these uncharted waters.
2021 doesn’t have to be the same.
Starting with some small changes to how you view yourself as a leader and a new way of thinking, you can start now to reshape the path of workplace health and safety that you and your organization will take into this next year.
During a crisis, eyes turn to the person in charge, looking for answers, looking for validation, and looking for support. There are few things in life more terrifying than dealing with critical incidents while feeling that you are alone; we as leaders have a unique and incredible opportunity to be part of the lifeline for our teams.
The health, well-being, and stability of your team should be your number one priority as a leader. When that happens, great things like increased productivity, better morale, and less sick time usage inevitably follow, even with the wild-card factor of COVID-19 waiting in the shadows.
When people look to you for guidance, however, there is another side of the coin. Those same eyes are on you no matter what you do. What kind of role model are you for your team? Are you following safety protocols yourself? Are you making sure that your team members have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need? Are you checking in on those working from home, making sure they still feel like part of the team and that their needs are being attended to? Are you treating mental health with empathy as your team continues to adjust to working at home or starts the process of returning to an office setting?
Anyone can steer a ship through calm and smooth seas; it is the true leader who steps to the helm when the seas are rough and the storms are blowing.
Despite the fear and uncertainty that have been a hallmark of 2020 and that, unfortunately, look to be continuing in 2021, there are incredible opportunities present for those who see them—opportunities to grow and improve your knowledge, skills, and abilities within your field.
The great thing is this growth is inherently connected to being a strong and empathetic leader—you can’t have one without the other.
Leaving a legacy starts with small steps. Let your leadership, your dedication to health and safety, and your service to your team during this unprecedented time in professional history be the start of yours.