Is risk management everyone’s responsibility? No way, Jose.

In an effort to include everyone in all things, leaders make the mistake of believing that people are good at everything.  Or that they have an interest in everything.  Or that even if they do have an interest that they can actually do it.

Recently, I heard the phrase “risk management is everyone’s responsibility” and I couldn’t disagree more.  Just as IT is not everyone’s responsibility.  Or arresting criminals is everyone’s responsibility.  Or accounting is everyone’s responsibility.  Flying a plane or doing brain surgery.  It’s not.  And to think that you could do those jobs, or understand the complexity of those jobs is ridiculous.

We don’t need everyone in an organization trying to do risk management or safety for that matter.  What we need is for people to follow the rules. Being a good follower is important.  And that leads us to a discussion on leadership.  The world is obsessed with leadership right now.  In fact, I have been discussing this concept in our Campfire Mastermind lately.

We need to talk about leadership and ownership.  There is a difference.  A big difference.  Leadership starts with being a good follower.  Knowing when to lead and when to follow is paramount.  If you are fighting to lead on every project, job, or task nothing will get done.  And you may end up making huge mistakes or getting people killed in the process.

Sure, every one, one of us is a leader, but not every one of us is a leader in all aspects of our lives.  We need to know when to be a good student and when to be a good leader.  When we become a great student and then an expert in the knowledge, then and only then, can our leadership skills kick in.  And that is when we can take the reins of risk management or any other professional field.  Not all experts will lead the profession.  Some will follow and some will lead.  However, those same experts may lead in other areas of their life, but leave the leadership of their profession to someone else.  And that is okay.  There can be only one president, one science chair, one dean, one CEO, etc.  Hence the need for ownership.

Taking ownership of the lead role is important.  But it is also important in non-leadership roles.  Everyone has a role to play, a part to do and that means taking ownership of yourself and the tasks that you are required to do.  I often speak about fault vs. responsibility in my courses.  It’s important to know that no matter where the fault lies, you have a responsibility to take action to keep yourself safe.  Risk management on the other hand, well that is harder to do.  Not every teacher, public works employee or custodian can devise the asbestos monitoring plan, confined space plan, insurance plan or employment policies.  That is left to the experts.  But what every employee can do is take ownership of their decisions and follow the protocols and strict operating procedures set forth by the leaders of the organization.  There is a difference and it is about time that we as leaders stop putting shuffling the responsibility to lead down the ladder.  It’s time we own it.

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