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The leader's role in developing psychological safety

Psychological safety is the foundation upon which high-performing teams and organisations are built.

Psychological safety is the foundation upon which high-performing teams and organisations are built.

Built on the foundation that one can speak up, take risks, and be vulnerable without fear of punishment or humiliation, a psychologically safe workplace is an environment where employees are more engaged, innovative, and willing to contribute their best efforts.

Walking the talk

To cultivate psychological safety, leaders must lead by example. This begins with embracing vulnerability and sharing own challenges, mistakes, and uncertainties openly. When employees see their leaders acknowledging vulnerability, they are more likely to feel comfortable doing the same.

Actively listening to your team members is another fundamental aspect of leading by example. Giving them your full attention, asking clarifying questions, and validating their concerns encourages others to do the same, creating a culture of open communication. Respectful disagreements within teams are healthy, and it’s important to emphasise that differing opinions are valuable and that healthy debate is welcome. When conflicts arise, address them constructively and model how to handle disagreements professionally.

Open communication

Establishing a system of regular check-ins provides a safe space for team members to discuss their concerns, ask questions, and provide feedback. Ensuring that these conversations are confidential and non-judgmental and implementing anonymous feedback mechanisms, such as suggestion boxes or digital surveys allows employees to voice their concerns or ideas without fear of reprisal. Use this feedback to make positive changes within the organisation.

Transparency in communication is essential for psychological safety, so keep your team informed about organisational changes, goals, and performance metrics. Because when employees understand the broader context, they are more likely to feel secure in their roles.

Risk taking and innovation

Recognise and reward employees who take risks and initiate new ideas, even if these efforts result in failure and show appreciation for their courage and willingness to innovate. When employees see that calculated risks are valued, they will be more inclined to step out of their comfort zones.

Encourage a culture of learning from failure. Rather than assigning blame, focus on identifying lessons and improvements that can be made. Sharing stories of your own failures and the lessons you've gained from them can help to normalise the concept of learning through mistakes. At the same time, ensure that your team has access to the resources and support they need to take risks and innovate, such as training or mentorship.

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is an ongoing process that requires dedication and commitment from leaders. When employees feel safe to express themselves, take risks, and innovate, they become more engaged and motivated.

Psychological safety is not just a buzzword. It's a fundamental aspect of effective leadership. It leads to increased employee satisfaction, higher retention rates, and improved organisational performance. As a leader, you have the power to create a workplace where your team members can bring their whole selves to work, contribute their best ideas, and achieve remarkable results.

At Acumen, we are dedicated to equipping managers with practical tools to tackle real-life challenges. Our comprehensive range of training and development programs, including customised interventions and off-the-shelf courses, helps organisations foster a culture of respect and empower their employees. To learn more about our programs and how they can benefit your organisation, please contact Simon at


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