The Expert Leader

In my work with a multitude of organisations, I’ve found there are 2 types of people who tend to be responsible for quality, environment and safety management systems. Acknowledging the great work these people do, this article explores potential opportunities for development of their skills to optimize system implementation.

Sometimes the system is ‘given’ to an existing manager such as the General Manager, HR Manager or the Business Owner. This person takes on responsibility for developing and maintaining the system along with their other roles and responsibilities, and usually does a terrific job of integrating it into business activities. Though at times there can be a disconnect between the requirements of the ISO standards (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO 45001 etc) and their interpretation specific to the business in question. Without fully understanding the technical standards, the challenge for the system owner is to move from being inexpert (a technical novice) toward understanding and ultimately become an interpreter of the standards for the organisation.

In larger companies there might be a system ‘expert’ who is a specialist in the area. These people fully understand the legislation and the ISO standards, and usually have experienced implementation at other businesses or industries. The challenge for these system owners is not in technical knowledge but rather the ability to engage and influence across the organisation, and provide valuable performance data to business leaders. Ideally, we want these people to move from being Implementers to Influencers.

If you are a system owner, where do you fit on this scale? Are you managing others without a clear understanding of system expectations and compliance requirements? Or are you a specialist who is busy ‘doing’ when you really should be leading?