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Leadership in EHS and Sustainability

Posted by EHS Insight Staff on March 10, 2015 at 1:22 PM

In February, we posted an article referencing the National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM) research on sustainability and environmental, health and safety skillset integration in the workforce. A follow up article from NAEM expands on the subject, introducing the idea that regardless of experience or background, leadership skills are the most important for success in either of these fields.

As the availability of well-trained EHS professionals shortens due to retirement of baby-boomers and overall market demand1, it’s important to identify young professionals who show promise in their careers. NAEM lists three skills that have been self-reported by EHS and sustainability professionals as their strongest aptitudes:

  • Written communications
  • Translating technical concepts for non-expert audiences
  • Managing without authority

Communication skills are vital as a leader is required to not only communicate the facts they know, but share a vision that can get people on board2. This can prove difficult considering the variety of people that an EHS or sustainability leader interacts with from day to day. Whether presenting to a management board or working with field personnel to explain safety systems on the job, an EHS or sustainability professional has to lead by example to instill confidence in their abilities.

Image credit: inc.com

For many of the EHS and sustainability professionals who have degrees or experience in sciences or engineering, communication skills must be intentionally developed for career advancement. Subject matter expertise or technical skill can only go so far – to be a leader in EHS or sustainability requires more.

The last skill, managing without authority, is perhaps the most intangible of all. According to one of the experts interviewed, the lesson to be learned is that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”3. Connecting on a personal level can be difficult for some, but is necessary for an EHS or sustainability professional hoping to secure a leadership position.

The closing message in this article came with a challenge. For those who lack confidence in any of the skills listed above, the best way to improve is to participate and put yourself out there. Practice makes perfect, and for emerging leaders in the EHS and sustainability fields the time to develop these skills and advance is now.


Visit Green Tie to read the full article. 

[1] http://www.asse.org/assets/1/7/FSLC_Article.pdf
[2] http://www.thegreentie.org/naem-updates/no-matter-the-position-ehs-professionals-need-leadership-skills-to-succeed
[3] Ibid.

Topics: Sustainability, EHS Management, Industry Insights

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