The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Reflection: Psychological Safety and Leadership

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On February 25, Rachna Shah gave a presentation on psychological safety. Psychological safety exists within a team setting and refers to a shared belief held by all team members that a team allows for interpersonal risk taking. According to Rachna, psychological safety represents the sweet spot between anxiety and apathy. She believes that we should follow four steps to promote psychological safety within teams: (1) demonstrate inclusivity and understand that team members may come from diverse backgrounds, (2) encourage learning, (3) ensure that team members feel secure in contributing, and (4) foster an environment where team members feel safe in challenging others’ ideas. By establishing an environment conducive to psychological safety, teams can advance curiosity, creativity, respect, and trust.

Rachna’s insights on psychological safety will impact my own leadership skills and experiences. I have previously worked in a few teams where individuals exercised extreme caution and avoided speaking openly due to fears that others may react adversely. Going forward, I would like to promote psychological safety when working in a team setting. To do so, I will defer judgements when my team drafts potential ideas. I will additionally avoid placing blame on other team members, but instead stay focused on finding solutions. Finally, I will embrace Rachna’s suggestion that teams draft a contract during their first meeting, which will help commit the team to creating and upholding psychological safety.

For leaders, psychological safety is a crucial element of cultivating a successful team environment. Given the high degree of uncertainty within the workplace, it is important that teams provide psychological safety for all of their members. Teams promoting a high level of psychological safety can reap enormous benefits, given that individuals engaging in interpersonal risk taking will be more innovative, adaptable, and fulfilled. As such, psychologically safe teams will demonstrate superior performance in today’s fast-paced world. Ultimately, the concept of psychological safety can help us work effectively with team members in diverse and dynamic organizational environments.


-Written by Arun Maganti, Class of 2021 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences