Safety, Parts Work, and Our Inner Leader
Lead Coach and Facilitator at Choose Leadership | Working with Purpose Driven Leaders and Organisations
brown chicken eggs in a carton with faces drawn on them

I have been thinking a lot about safety over the past months. Amy Edmondson has done groundbreaking work on the topic of psychological safety. And I deeply appreciate how Timothy Clark has expanded the conversation with his four levels of psychological safety and how leaders can go about building these: 

  • Inclusion safety,
  • Learner safety,
  • Contribution safety, and 
  • Challenger safety.

This is important work in the outer world of leadership – the DOING of leadership.

While there are skills you can learn, the biggest impact we can have on psychological safety comes from within us: when a leader can create psychological safety inside them, accessing calm and courage, and self-compassion and confidence, they then resonate this into their environment, which makes the people around them feel more safe too.

I take a stand for leadership being an inside-out movement: what happens on the inside determines what emerges on the outside. Or, as Bill O’Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance put it:

“The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.”

Put another way again, the positive impact of our actions as leaders depends less on ‘what we do’ and more on the quality of our inner leadership.

So what of our internal safety? Over the past 40 years, Richard Schwartz has created a developmental model known as Internal Family Systems, and one of its focuses is creating internal safety for the different Parts that we contain.

Yes, IFS does not subscribe to the belief that we are one, monolithic psyche, but rather that our psyche is comprised of Self and multiple sub-personalities that operate in a finely balanced system which seeks to create internal safety for our more vulnerable Parts.

Bill Anderson of the Leadership Circle Profile has written eloquently about the tension we hold as humans between safety and purpose.

I’ve expanded, less eruditely, on some of his thoughts here.

There may not be, as Bill Anderson writes, a safe path of leadership, but we can create internal safety for ourselves by accessing more of our Self energy and healing our wounded Parts

I know, ‘wounded’ and ‘healing’ are not yet part of the lexicon of corporate leadership, but they soon will be. Neglecting our inner leaders is proving too costly on a personal, societal, and organisational level.

At Choose Leadership we work with leaders to support them to grow and nurture the interior condition they hold, so that they can bring a different quality of BEING to the change and innovation they lead in service of their personal and organisational purpose.

And that movement begins with creating safety.

So in that spirit I say, “Welcome to you and all your Parts…”

For leadership coaching and developement, get in touch

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