There’s been some debate about “leadership” within BOHS recently, with some discussion on the BOHS Linkedin forum and with a Workshop devoted to the issue at the BOHS Conference in Cardiff (presentation slides can be download from here). Last year, a number of your younger members were able to attend the Future Leader’s Institute run by the American Academy of Industrial Hygiene (the US equivalent of the British Faculty of Occupational Hygiene) in San Francisco last November.
From a British perspective the term “leadership” has a flavour of elitism about it and may make many of our members feel uneasy. But I think it is something that we do need to be thinking about in the context of professional development.
Traditionally, in the UK, the BOHS qualifications have focussed on the underlying knowledge and principles of occupational hygiene and the technical skills needed to understand and manage health risks. But anyone working as an occupational hygienist has to develop other skills such as how to communicate, persuade and influence, coach and mentor colleagues and develop strategy. All of these fall under the remit of “leadership” skills. There are some other competencies that professional occupational hygienists need to develop as they progress through their career – for example, project management, supervisory skills, time management and planning and organisation skills. These could be described as “management skills” but some could also fall under the “leadership” banner.
Personally, I would categorise all of these competencies, attributes and abilities as “professional skills”. But whatever we call them they are an important part of personal and professional development and I do think that BOHS needs to be looking at how we incorporate them into our qualifications and professional development requirements for Faculty Membership.
I’m not convinced, though, that BOHS should be looking to establish a “Future Leadership” progamme like that run in the US. “Leadership” is something that is relevant to other aspects of an individual’s work and most companies have their own leadership and management training programmes. Management courses are usually expensive too – considerably greater than the cost of a BOHS Module course. So I doubt that a leadership course specifically aimed at occupational hygienists would be viable. But some aspects of “leadership”/”professional” skills could be incorporated within the BOHS qualifications, particularly the Diploma, and we could encourage individual members to bring them into their own professional development programme.
The BOHS could also look at devoting some of our Regional meetings and professional development courses at our Annual Conference to “professional skills”. The North West Region is taking a small step in that direction during the autumn. Our meeting on 31 October in Bootle will be a workshop covering report writing and the planning and delivery of presentations. It’s free to attend.