Understanding Leadership from the Masters

Carl Sall knows a thing or two about being an effective leader with an honorable military background and being an exceptional industrial hygienist. We’re excited to debut his leadership course during AIHce EXP 2018 in Philadelphia, where he’ll be bringing skills from historical and current leaders to the discussion.

We spoke with Carl to learn more about his background, his approach to leadership, and why IH/OH professionals should “​Understand Leadership from the Masters.”

AIHA: First, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Sall: I started my career in Industrial Hygiene after completing four years in the U.S. Army. During the First Persian Gulf War, my unit lost three soldiers due to a safety incident, which were the only losses my unit suffered during the conflict. After the war, I left the military and enrolled in the University of Central Missouri (UCM) in their safety program. During my first semester I was convinced to change my major to industrial hygiene.

While pursuing my degree, I joined a local Army National Guard unit and eventually attended the state Officer Candidate School (OCS) and received my commission. Eventually, I completed both my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from UCM. Because of my affiliation with the military as an officer, I also received the opportunity to attend multiple leadership courses that have help shaped my career.

Throughout my career, I have always sought out new challenges and tried to keep my experiences as diverse as possible. As a result, I have had the opportunity to work in both the private and public sector. My experience also includes work within the United States and around the globe. Most recently, my family and I spent six years in the United Arab Emirates, where I worked on a nuclear power plant build project. Currently, I am working for Louis Berger as the Director of Health and Safety for their U.S. Division.

AIHA: What's your experience and involvement with AIHA and AIHce?

Sall: I first became involved with AIHA while at UCM as a member and eventually president of the student chapter. I attended my first AIHce when it was in Kansas City (1995) and our student chapter sponsored a social for all student chapters at the conference. After graduation, I continued to maintain my involvement in AIHA and eventually joined the Continuing Education Committee. Later, I joined the Management Committee and eventually served a term as Chair. I eventually stepped back from the leadership of the committee, but recently returned to serve another term as Chair. We also recently changed the committee name to Leadership and Management Committee in an effort of to align the name of the committee with its increased focus on leadership.

Involvement in AIHA and attending AIHce has always been an integral part of my career and professional development. Living internationally, I had the opportunity to attend various conferences and forums on health and safety, but AIHce always stood out to me as setting the standard. If I had to make a decision of attending only one professional conference, AIHce would be my first choice.

AIHA: Who should be taking the PDC 106 course?

Sall: The course is suitable for leaders and managers at all levels. It's an overview of various leadership and management techniques that IH/OH professionals can use throughout their career. We will also review ethically questionable methods to understand how to counteract them effectively.

The course will give you a baseline knowledge you can then take and expand upon. I will be including a section where we review the current and historical literature on the subjects of leadership and management.  


"Something I regularly tell people is that creating a plan is easy – anyone can do that. The challenge is implementing the plan and leading people to a successful conclusion."


AIHA: What kind of hands-on practice can participants expect during the course?

Sall: The course is designed to encourage participation from all attendees. We all have varied experiences we should share with our fellow professionals. It's great to learn from your experiences and failures, but even better if you can learn from other people’s experiences and failures.

Along with open participation, we will ask attendees to identify a personal or professional goal that they would like to achieve. As we progress in the class, attendees will review their goals and refine them until eventually, they develop an action plan.

I have taught various leadership and management courses, and I have spoken at multiple symposiums on the topic. Something I regularly tell people is that creating a plan is easy – anyone can do that. The challenge is implementing the plan and leading people to a successful conclusion.

AIHA: How have leadership and management skills evolved over the past decade?

Sall: Not much has changed in leadership and management skills over the last 4,000 years. Consider the core leadership books that are commonly referenced:

  • Art of War by Sun-Tzu
  • The Tao Te Ching (Classic Eastern Philosophy)
  • Writings of Confucius
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  • The Republic by Plato

Many of the books listed are based on philosophy and do not give specific leadership skills. This is important because you need to adjust your leadership approach based on who you are leading and the requirements of your situation. What has changed in leadership is the tools we have available.

For example, communication is a basic leadership skill that is key for any successful leader. Two thousand years ago, a king or queen would have a court filled with courtiers. A good ruler would converse with their courtiers daily so they could make decision on how to best rule their people and land. During this time, if you were a courtier, it was important for your livelihood to be seen by the king or queen on a regular basis, so you could maintain good communications.

Today, we don’t have the luxury of a court, and many companies are spread across the globe. Communication is a key factor to success. We have effectively replaced the court with tools such as Skype and email. The importance of communication as a skill has not changed, but the tools we use to communicate have changed.


"In the IH field, as a profession, we need to learn how to succeed in the corporate boardroom where decisions are made."


AIHA: What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about leadership in the IH field?

Sall: The biggest misconception everyone has is that it is not important to “play the game.” Politics of the work environment will decide who is successful in their career and who is stagnant. How many times have you worked for someone that makes you question what they did to get promoted? You are obviously more qualified and they “sucked up” to management. The truly successful people are those that are competent and know how to manage corporate politics.

In the IH field, as a profession, we need to learn how to succeed in the corporate boardroom where decisions are made. Fundamentally, leadership has to like you and consider you competent before you can get a seat at the table. You keep your seat by building relationships, managing programs successfully, and being willing to step outside your comfort zone to take on new challenges.

Finally, not to reiterate communication skills, but if you do not talk the same language as the corporate executives, you will never get their attention. For example, tell the president of your company you need to spend $10,000 to perform a site health and safety assessment so you can identify and address concerns, you will probably get a response that it will be considered. On the other hand, tell the president of the company you need $10,000 to perform an assessment that will improve your site’s health and safety program, which will have a return on investment (ROI) of $3 for every $1 spent, you will get a seat at the table for further discussion.

AIHA: Anything else those interested should know about the PDC 106 course?

For those considering attending the course, it is important that you have an open mind, be prepared to participate, and ask questions. The course is designed to be fast paced, educational, and fun.

I will not pretend to know all the answers. I practice leadership and management, so I am continually learning. Between varied experiences, I hope I can help others learn from my successes, and more importantly, my mistakes. Finally, I am not a university professor, so I will do my best keep everyone awake and engaged.

This brand new course is sure to be an interesting one! We agree with Carl Sall - leadership skills are necessary as a IH/OH professional. You can learn more about this professional development course and register for PDC 106: Understanding Leadership from the Masters.


Berrak Sarikaya is a content strategist and brand amplifier based in Seattle, Washington.


AIHce EXP 2018, held in Philadelphia, PA May 21-23, is the EXPerience of the year for IH and OEHS professionals across the country. You’ll be exposed to the latest trends, needs, and research impacting worker health with experiential education sessions, networking opportunities with like-minded professionals, and the tools you need to solve your workplace challenges. This highly-rated event also offers a robust virtual experience for those that want to reap the benefits of conference without the travel. Register today.