Leaders lead with everything they do and say, whether they intend to or not. In our work we’ve seen that reality put many leaders far outside their comfort zones. Safety leadership isn’t just initiatives and numbers. It’s personal. As many leaders have learned, people remember most what you do in situations involving people and principles—for example, whether (and how) you approached employees working at-risk or challenged decisions that increased exposure.
Developing the strength to do the right thing in these moments (and in all the other ones) comes from having a clear and unshakable emotional commitment to safety. In other words, to lead safety well, you first need to care about it. The good news is the value for safety is something we all inherently have. It may be dormant or poorly defined, but it is something we as leaders can awaken and use to drive our decisions, actions, and communications. When we cultivate a deep emotional commitment to safety, we provide ourselves the tools to navigate the hard moments effectively. Most important, we engage the hearts and minds of others to awaken their own commitment to safety.