safe. [ authentic leadership > 3-of-5 ]


Are You a safe leader?

One thing I learned early on was that if I was going to create environments that were safe enough for people to breakthrough and be transformed… I first must be a safe-leader.

In a climbing expedition, the guide challenges those they lead to go to new places. Those who follow them will often keep going if they are certain that the guide still has their SAFETY at heart. If they ever feel that expedition is more about the leader than their safe arrival, chances are they will not follow that guide to the peak.

Real, authentic leaders, are SAFE leaders regardless of their personality types. SAFE leaders are not “soft” leaders. In fact, it’s often just the opposite. Leaders who are SAFE are also strong leaders who can say the hard things and confront resistance. They take risks and accept challenges, but they are able to do so as they create safe environments that allow people to embrace the climb.

Are you a SAFE Leader? Do people trust you?


Authentic, SAFE leaders, personify the command to “honor one another.”  Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  To honor does not always mean agreement, or failure to grapple with sin. To honor means to dispense respect and value for the other person, as a person, despite disagreement and struggles.

How do you achieve the balance of being a leader who stretches people, while at the same time being one that is authentic and safe to follow? It is often the result of cultivating four qualities.

FOUR Qualities of SAFE [ Authentic ] Leaders

1. Leaders who are SAFE are… TRUST-WORTHY

SAFE is earned – SAFE cannot be bought at a workshop, it can only be demonstrated. In the heat of the battle, in the face of an angry follower, in the battle over wills, how a leader responds, how they treat people, and how they handle those moments will tell others if they are a leader they can follow.  Are you trust… worthy?

2. Leaders who are SAFE are… HONEST

SAFE is built on truth – SAFE, authentic leaders tell themselves the truth, and they tell those they lead the truth. Jesus was filled of both “grace and truth.” (John 1:14). SAFE leaders choose to not gloss over the truth, nor do they hammer those they lead down with the truth. They choose to be honest. They call out the “elephants in the room,” and they tell the truth to themselves.  Are you honest?

3. Leaders who are SAFE are… APPROACHABLE

SAFE is about accessibility – It’s not about being everyone’s best friend, but they allow people access to themselves. They are not walled-off. They are approachable, and they see the need that both listen, as well as talk. They ask, as much as tell. They invite ownership.  Are you approachable?

4. Leaders who are SAFE are… CONSISTENT

SAFE is reliable – SAFE leaders do not waver, vacillating in their opinion depending on the next strong voice or fad. They can be counted on to remain true in character and integrity, yet still model an openness to learn and grow. They are consistent in the predictable and unpredictable times of leading.  Are you consistent?

What would those who follow you say?

Trustworthy, honest leaders who remain approachable and consistent in behavior are authentic. They are safe leaders whom God uses to build safe-places for others to climb to new places of growth and Christ-likeness.

Tomorrow’s BLOG POST: Authentic leaders have a strong, internal compass.

© Terry Walling  2013

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