Safety Leadership

Safety Leadership: The connected leader: Building trust in today’s disconnected world


Editor’s Note: Achieving and sustaining an injury-free workplace demands strong leadership. In this monthly column, experts from global consulting firm DEKRA share their point of view on what leaders need to know to guide their organizations to safety excellence.

The “great resignation.” “Quiet quitting.” We’ve all read the headlines and know that leaders are facing a new work landscape.

Despite the many articles about today’s world of work, many leaders still struggle with understanding employee expectations and cultivating trust and loyalty. These leaders wonder how they can build (or rebuild) trust and loyalty, and create (or repair) strong, positive relationships.

It all comes back to people – amid change, distractions and an evolving work landscape. The answer: connected leaders who are mindful of employee expectations. Connected leaders understand that employees want collaboration and development. More importantly, they understand that employees need to know the organization values them as individuals, and not only their contributions. Employees want their leaders to prioritize their well-being.

Connected leaders understand this and strive to build not only a culture of trust, but also a positive work experience, which includes job satisfaction, confidence, feelings of respect, recognition, independence, open communication and commitment to the job.

So, how can you get there? You need to go back to the basics and ask the following:

  • Is my vision of the organization known and compelling?
  • Am I credible to the people I lead? Do my words and actions match? Do I tell the truth? Do my employees trust me?
  • Do my employees know that I value them as individuals, including their well-being?
  • Do I find ways to bring people together and collaborate on solving problems?
  • Do I communicate information clearly?
  • Do I take action, and is it visible to others?
  • Do I share feedback, letting others know how their role adds value?
  • Do I practice fair accountability?
  • Do I cultivate strong, positive relationships with my employees, work groups, and leaders who report to me and their reports?

Connected leaders are open to taking a hard look at themselves and willing to ask for feedback. This willingness to be honest with themselves is followed by a sincere effort to remediate any deficits. Connected leaders embrace the opportunity to craft a successful future.

Look out for anything that cuts the connection, including bullying, negative public feedback, office gossip, excluding individuals, and dismissing ideas and contributions. Once trust is broken, a leader’s ability to influence is severely damaged. When one leader behaves this way, it invites other leaders to do the same. In addition, employees will be less willing to raise safety concerns, approach others who are at risk, volunteer for initiatives and/or share ideas on how to control exposures. A culture led by disconnected leaders can become toxic, and a toxic environment draws attention away from controlling exposure.

Here are three questions that will help you connect:

  1. What do I want others to think about me?
  2. What do I want others to think about themselves?
  3. What do I want people to tell others about me?

At the beginning of your day, ask yourself these questions and reflect on how you’ll leverage each interaction – big and small – to build connection.

There’s gravity to being a leader. There’s also satisfaction. The ability to influence and create transformation is powerful. The connected leader knows and embraces this.


This article represents the views of the authors and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Angelica Grindle, Ph.D., is a vice president in DEKRA’s ( consulting practice. She specializes in the application of behavioral science to improve workplace safety at all organizational levels.

Rebecca Timmins, M.S., is a senior vice president in DEKRA’s consulting practice. Her extensive experience includes developing executive leaders, creating governance structures and helping leaders improve safety performance.



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