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Title: Managing safety from the top : the influence of senior managers' characteristics
Author: Fruhen, Laura S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 1059
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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The safety literature describes senior managers as crucially influencing organisational safety. Yet, it is not fully understood, what contributes to their influence. This thesis investigated senior managers’ characteristics in relation to their impact on safety in air traffic management organisations. A review of the safety literature indicated research in this area would benefit from the introduction of a research model as a theoretical basis. The skills-based leadership model by Mumford and colleagues was proposed as a suitable model for senior managers’ influence on organisational safety. A safety–specific version of the model was devised, consisting of traits (Big Fives, regulatory focus), skills (problem solving, social competence) and safety knowledge as antecedents of safety commitment and organisational safety outcomes. Study 1 explored the relevance of these characteristics for senior managers’ work on safety using semi-structured interviews with senior managers (N = 9). Responses were coded into the characteristics with sufficient reliability using qualitative content analysis. The characteristics were found to be relevant for senior managers’ influence on safety and their content was refined based on the findings. Safety knowledge and social competence were frequently indicated. Interpersonal leadership emerged as additionally relevant. Study 2 investigated the characteristics’ relevance for safety managers’ and CEOs’ influence on safety with questionnaires consisting of open questions (N = 49). Responses were coded using qualitative content analysis with acceptable reliability. The results re-confirmed the relevance of the characteristics. As in the previous study, interpersonal leadership emerged. Furthermore, problem-solving, leadership and safety knowledge were found more frequently for CEOs than for safety managers, whereas personality was more frequently indicated for safety managers than for CEOs. Finally, Study 3 tested the characteristics’ influence on safety commitment, which was conceptualised as indicated through behaviours that reflect a positive attitude towards safety. Interview questions, scenarios and questionnaires were used to measure characteristics and safety commitment in a sample of senior managers (N = 60). Interview and scenario responses were quantified with acceptable reliability. The results indicated that not all characteristics that were previously found to be relevant for senior managers’ influence on organisational safety were also related to safety commitment. Mainly, problem solving was shown to influence safety commitment, with the ability to understand problems, to identify useful information-sources and to generate ideas that relate to changes in the organisation’s culture as most influential. The findings can inform guidance and training for senior managers. Future research in this area could benefit from a focus on the conceptualisation of safety commitment, the role of interpersonal leadership style, as well as safety knowledge and the skills included in the research model.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Executives ; Safety Management ; Health and safety ; Organisational behavior