Existing research provides insights into the role that organizational leaders play in influencing safety performance and outcomes in their workplace (Cree and Kelloway, 1997; Shannon, Mayr, and Haines, 1997; Barling, Loughlin, and Kelloway, 2002; Zohar, 1980). These researchers, among others, emphasize that effective leaders need to actively demonstrate investment in and support for safety in order to achieve improved safety-related outcomes. Additional research has suggested that leadership practices of supervisors' influence the behaviors of their subordinates, specifically those behaviors associated with safety (Komaki et al., 1982; Barling et al., 2001; Zohar, 2002, 2004). Cooper (2015) defines safety leadership as "the process of defining the desired state, setting up the team to succeed and engaging in the discretionary efforts that drive safety value." Cooper and Finley (2013) state that ineffective leadership hinders the ability of many companies to achieve success.
With consideration to the extant literature, this paper focuses on safety leadership behaviors and whether those behaviors are operationalized within an organizational setting. Throughout the recent past, several styles of leadership have been the subject of research. Most textbooks on management and leadership focus on explanations and examples of four primary styles of leadership: transactional, transitional, servant, and situational leadership. Multiple exploratory approaches to the specific influence that safety leaders and the modeling of safety related behaviors had on subordinates were the focus of the research efforts presented in this paper.
While other approaches to leadership are important, such as servant and situational leadership, transactional and transformational leadership are addressed most substantially in the literature. These leadership approaches represent the prominent areas of interest (Bass, 1985). According to Bass (1985), transactional leadership involves motivating and directing followers or subordinates, primarily through appealing to their own self-interest. The power of transactional leaders comes from their formal authority and responsibility within their organization. Transactional leaders motivate their subordinates and others within the organization through a system of rewards and punishments. If the individual or group produces what is desired or expected, a reward follows. Conversely, if the individual or group fails to produce what is expected or desired, punishment follows, or rewards are withheld. This exchange between leaders and followers occurs to achieve routine performance goals (Bass, 1985).