Safe Space — 2 Leadership Qualities for Creating the “Safe Space”

We’ve been hearing a lot about safe places, zones, spaces. Our universities seem to be consumed with making sure students feel safe with their feelings and opinions. The debate continues to rage concerning what true safe space should be.

The up and coming leaders in our nation need to feel safe expressing their opinions and feelings. The fact is, leaders are responsible to create a safe environment for those on the team.  What does it mean for leaders to create a safe space?  It seems the need to feel safe has over ruled the need for be safe.

In a recent study concerning a safe environment, 2 basic leadership qualities were cited as what followers want to see in their leader. The most productive and forward advancing teams are lead by competent and warm leaders. These two qualities produce a safe environment for ideas, visions, structure, and discussion.

That is the key to a safe space, structure and discussion. Leaders who do not want differing opinions, or boundaries within their environment tend to have low performing teams.

Competent Leader – you can and will fulfill your promise.

I feel safe because the leader knows where we are going and can get us there.

Keep focused

The competent leaders has the ability to follow through on his or her intentions. A competent leader can deliver on his promise. The team feels safe because they know that when the leader speaks or shows up things will be accomplished.

The competent leader focuses on creating the environment of deliberation, discovery, and decision. Once a decision has been made then the team moves into action.

Keep a standard

Whatever you tolerate will be your standard
If you tolerate lateness, insubordination, subpar work, then the standard will be; lateness, insubordination, subpar work. You get the point. The need for boundaries in the team makes the team great.

However, there must be room for life’s interruptions. As the leader you have the opportunity to come along side team members who might be struggling.

Warm Leader – you won’t hurt me

I feel safe because the leader believes in me and invests in my success.

As the leader you have the responsibility to create the environment. One where everyone on the team feels there is a reason they are at the table.

Focus on creating warmth

  • Create opportunities to be human
  • Know and ask about family events
  • Bring donuts to the meeting
  • Know and ask about personal projects and accomplishments
  • Impromptu lunch at a local Restauraunt
  • Throw a “celebration for no reason” party
  • Find out what each team member’s favorite candy bar is and have it at their place on the table for the meeting.

Everyone has something to offer

Those on you team want to feel they are safe to share their thoughts and possibly be wrong. They need to know they are safe to fail, be wrong, or make a mistake. They also need to feel safe to excel, lead, take initiative, and move the team forward. If they are not allowed to fail and succeed then why are they at the table?

I have found that allowing those on the team to fail is common. Allowing them to succeed is much more rare. Because someone who succeeds becomes a threat to others, if the environment is not safe. Do not hold too tight to your position as a leader or on the team. There will always be someone coming that is smarter, sharper, better, and more talented. Make it safe for them to succeed. Then the team will succeed.

Accept Challenge

Part of being on a team is being willing to be challenged or willing to challenge. The problem in the modern day safe space is that we no longer view our opinions as challengeable. As the leader you have to challenge your team and allow the team to challenge each other. If you don’t allow your team to challenge each other or even challenge you, it is not a safe space. It becomes a place where individual rights supersede the rights and good of the team. The Bible states that the heart of man is exceedingly wicked and no man can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9). In other words, left to itself, our heart and thoughts will always turn dark.

As a diligent leader you have the opportunity and the duty to create a safe place, space, and zone.  Create it and watch your team do incredible things!!!


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