The Ergonomics of Leadership

Throughout history, we as a civilization have been led by many great leaders. Whether it be Nelson Mandela, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Winston Churchill, or Oprah Winfrey, these leaders have inspired generations of humanity. Through good times, and bad, a great leader thrives on integrity, communication, vision, and motivation. Think of the leaders you encounter daily; could be a coach, a teacher, a mentor, or a manager. All of these people seek to maximize the efforts of others while influencing behavior and providing guidance.

Great leaders are all around us, but your organization’s Ergonomist may be the quietest of them all. Think about it though, it is the Ergonomist’s job to inspire positive change, to guide our employees towards safe working practices, and to maximize the efforts of those around them. How do they do it you might ask? Today’s blog will focus on 5 principles embraced by the greatest leader in your organization: The Ergonomist.

1. “Focus on getting 1% better each day.” – James Clear

  • The end goal often overshadows the importance of continuous improvement.
  • Striving to create daily habits that foster a culture of continuous growth ensures that the end goal is accomplished while still rewarding each step along the way.
  • Ergonomics is a process of continuous improvement. We as Ergonomists must work to assess and reassess our solutions to provide the best working environment for our employees.

2. “Put first things first.” – Stephen R. Covey

  • Prioritize most important goals, instead of constantly responding to urgencies. These important goals and their completion are what drive long-term progress forward.
  • As an Ergonomist, making time for the daily urgencies is important, but so is prioritizing program development and continuous improvement.

3. “It takes a team of good people to get you to your destination.” – William H.

  • Your success as a leader depends on a strong inner circle for you to rely on. An Ergonomist’s inner circle may include health and safety team members, injury prevention specialists, employee wellness managers, engineers – the list goes on.
  • Identifying and trusting your inner circle inspires hope, leading to long-term change.

4. “Lead Up, Lead Across, Lead Down.” – John Maxwell

  • Regardless of your place in an organization’s hierarchy, you as an Ergonomist can lead.
  • A great leader values and respects everyone, this creates a workplace culture of reciprocal value and trust.
  • Ergonomics is a people-based profession. A great Ergonomist knows their employees, they understand and value their perspectives, allowing for successful solutions to be implemented.

5. “To lead yourself, use your head. To lead others, use your heart.” – John Maxwell

  • We as Ergonomists add value by serving others. Actively listening, valuing, and prioritizing the perspectives of those front-line employees is critical to influencing change.
  • What we know as Ergonomists does not matter until our employees see that we care.
  • In summary, great Ergonomists strive to become 1% better every day, they have a sincere interest in their employees, and they add value wherever possible. Great Ergonomists prioritize important goals, they never give up on inspiring others, and they lead from all directions. Great Ergonomists are great leaders.


    The contents of this post have been inspired by a seminar presented by Tami Blackwell at the Applied Ergonomics Conference 2022.