Psychologically safe leadership (PSL) is identified by the Standard as leadership that:

  • reinforces the development and sustainability of a psychologically healthy and safe workplace environment based on a foundation of ethics and stated values;
  • supports and reinforces all line management in the implementation of the Psychological Health and Safety Management System (PHSMS);
  • establishes key objectives toward continual improvement of psychological health and safety in the workplace;
  • leads and influences organizational culture in a positive way (see Annex B of Standard for resources);
  • ensures that psychological health and safety is part of organizational decision-making processes;
  • engages employees and, where required, their representatives to
    • be aware of the importance of psychological health and safety;
    • be aware of the implications of tolerating psychological health and safety hazards;
    • provide feedback to help the organization determine the effectiveness of the PHSMS implementation and operation; and
    • identify workplace needs regarding psychological health and safety.

How is psychologically safe leadership (PSL) different from psychological health and safety (PH&S) in the workplace?

A psychologically safe leader (PSL) is one who values the psychological well-being of their employees both in and out of the workplace,and prioritizes open communication and supportive relationships within their team. Similarly, a psychologically healthy and safe (PH&S) workplace promotes employees’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to employee psychological health including in negligent, reckless, or intentional ways. However, while psychologically safe leadership is a core element of an overall PH&S work environment, the two do not always go hand-in-hand. A psychologically safe leader might work in a psychologically unsafe environment, and an otherwise psychologically safe work environment might contain a psychologically unsafe leader.

As per the National Standard, psychological health and safety is embedded in the way people interact with one another on a daily basis and is part of the way working conditions and management practices are structured and the way decisions are made and communicated. While there are many factors external to the workplace that can impact psychological health and safety, the concept of PH&S in the workplace addresses those psychological health and safety aspects within the control, responsibility, or influence of the workplace that can have an impact within, or on, the workforce.

How does the PSLA measure and improve leaders’ PH&S skills?

The PSLA assesses leaders’ skills relating to psychologically safe leadership, and how those skills affect employees. As such, it differs from other tools related to PH&S in the workplace, such as Guarding Minds at Work, that are designed to assess the broader concept of psychological health and safety in the workplace.

Everybody has room for improvement, and all of the skills measured by the PSLA are teachable skills – that is, areas that aren’t as strong as others can be improved through training and skill development. Every workplace is different in terms of how these types of leadership skills are taught or promoted. By completing the PSLA, leaders and their organizations can identify areas for improvement – both at the individual leader level and at the organizational professional development level. By improving individual leaders’ PH&S skills as well as organizational training of these skills, you can improve the PH&S of your workplace and thus improve the psychological well-being and workplace engagement of your employees.

When completing the PSLA, it’s important that you respond as honestly as you can, even if you don’t like your answers. Openly identifying your strengths and areas for improvement is the most effective way to develop an action plan that will help you make a difference in your leadership, and thus make your workplace a more psychologically healthy and safe place for all employees.