Are you a safe leader? Part One.


Your top priority as a leader, is your people. Your level of success will depend on your teams’ success. But if your team don’t feel safe with you, no one will succeed.


Research has found that $600 billion a year is lost on employee turnover. On the other hand, companies that cultivate a high level of psychological safety benefit from:

  • 27% reduction in turnover
  • 76% more engagement
  • 50% more productivity
  • 74% less employee stress
  • 57% increase in the likelihood to collaborate

It’s clear that it’s important. But…


What is psychological safety?


The likes of Google, Microsoft and Gartner have identified that psychological safety is key to unlocking team potential, and the number one predictor of their best performing teams.


Psychological safety looks at whether someone feels comfortable being themselves when interacting with others, without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way.


In terms of being a psychologically safe leader, it’s about whether you’ve created a team that trusts each other and trusts you. Do they believe you care about them? Do they think you have their back? Do they have confidence that you’ll fight for them, support them and do right by them.


If you can create this environment, they will care you about. They will have your back. They will fight for, support you and do right by you.


7 questions to ask yourself when trying to understand if you’re a safe leader:


  1. How much do you know about your team, as people and as employees?
  2. Do you know what each persons skills and talents are, and are you utilizing them effectively?
  3. When a risk doesn’t pay off and/or someone makes a mistake, how do you respond?
  4. Are your team offering up extra information beyond the necessary or are you blindsided by problems and issues?
  5. How often do you ask for your teams’ opinion? What do you do with that information?
  6. How easy is it for your team to ask for help, from you and each other?
  7. Are you expecting your team to perform and think just like you?


The four stages of psychological safety.


Dr. Timothy Clark is the author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation, and identified that people have to progress through four stages before they reach the ultimate level of psychological safety.


His research into the area, found that people thrive in environments where they feel respected and which allows them to (1) feel included, (2) feel safe to learn, (3) feel safe to contribute, and (4) feel safe to challenge the status quo.


Let’s pull this thread and explore each area a little more.


Stage 1: Inclusion Safety

We long to belong. We need safe human contact and we want to be accepted. When we feel that we matter, every aspect of our lives improves. When we don’t feel that we belong, our perception of social standing is threatened and the pain centres of our brain are activated, in turn activating our fight or flight response.


Stage 2: Learner Safety

We need to learn and grow. This means feeling safe to ask questions, give and receive feedback, experiment and make mistakes. Learning is both intellectual and emotional. I’m sure we’ve all hesitated to ask a question for fear of being judged. When we feel safe to learn, we’re more willing to be vulnerable, take risks and develop resilience in the learning process.


Stage 3: Contributor Safety

We need to contribute and feel that we’re making a difference. We have a natural desire to apply what we’ve learned and use our skills and abilities to make a meaningful contribution. This means having the autonomy and feeling empowered to fully participate with energy and enthusiasm. The more we contribute, the more confidence and competence we develop.


Stage 4: Challenger Safety

We need to make things better. This means feeling safe to ask questions and challenge the status quo when you think there’s an opportunity to change or improve. It’s having permission to respectfully disagree and encourages creativity and innovation by not feeling the pressure to conform.


If your people don’t feel safe to do these things, they will shut down in fear. But when we cultivate an environment of psychological safety, our people feel confident, empowered and engaged. This? Drives individual and collective team performance and is part of what will make you a safe leader.


So, what is the key to being a psychologically safe leader?




Feelings of trust and psychological safety are so intertwined that you can’t talk about one without talking about the other. To build a culture of trust in your team, you must lead with empathy, vulnerability and transparency. You have to care and behave reliably and consistently.


To put it simply? It comes down to giving a sh*t.


Trust is imperative to creating phycological safety. It can make or break a team and company culture. Build a high trust team and things will flow. Communication is easy, the vibe is magnetic, people feel inspired and that they belong, great work gets done fast and there are less issues to deal with.


Want more? Read part two of this series here.



And when you’re ready? Here are some ways I can help:

  • Delegation Mentoring: A practical online mentoring experience for those who want to stop doing all the things and start leading with intention. Gain instant access here.
  • In-house Team Training: We specialise in delivering workshops on feedback conversations, nailing delegation, building engaged teams and change management. Enquire now.
  • Private Leadership Mentoring: just you and me. Solving the specific people challenges keeping you up at night, right now. Book in a free vibe check chat now.
  • Culture & Employee Experience Strategy: Perfect for businesses who want to get HR right from the get-go, are transitioning away from a Consultancy or want to stop doing HR like everyone else. Enquire now. 

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