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Leadership insight: Kathy Seabrook, chair, Center for Safety and Health Sustainability and former president of the American Society of Safety Practitioners

25 Oct 11:00 by JANE LAWRENCE

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Kathy Seabrook believes that listening skills are vital to good leadership.

“Leadership is about leading people and people need to be listened to,” she says.

“So many times, I come across people who just want to tell me stuff. And when I was younger I would say ‘I want to tell you…’ because that would demonstrate that I was a leader and a subject matter expert. But over time I’ve learned to take my ego out. If I allow people to just talk, I’m going to learn; there are always pearls.”

Seabrook adds that leadership is also about being able to engage people and that is not possible if you don’t ask them questions.

“If I engage with people I get data points and I can make the most effective decisions with the most people having part ownership of them,” she says.

She adds that listening to clients often leads her to a point where, after a discussion of their problems, she can identify a more important underlying issue.

“The other thing I’ve learned is that I don’t have to have all the answers,” she continues.

“The best leaders are those that turn it back to the group. Find those subject matter experts and ask, ‘What do you think?’ All of them together will give you the best solutions. That’s the best leadership quality one can have. It’s been really effective for me.”

However, Seabrook wants to correct any impression that this is a passive approach to leadership: “There is also a time to coach. When someone is not meeting targets to be able to help them see that and to talk about why they are not and what’s in the way and how to get them there.

“A lot of leaders don’t do that well. They get frustrated, they yell. But you don’t get anything out of your people that way.”

Read IOSH Magazine’s full interview with Kathy Seabrook: https://www.ioshmagazine.com/article/kathy-seabrook-center-safety-and-health-sustainability