GLS20 Session Notes: Safe is Insufficient

Published August 6, 2020

The following are notes from Nona Jones’ talk at #GLS20. Use them to help you apply the content you learned at the Summit.

Nona Jones shares why—when it comes to leadership—safe is insufficient. During times of difficulty, it is human nature to try to find a place of safety and security, but progress cannot be made in the places that bring us comfort. Progress can only be made in the places that make us grow. This session provokes conviction to lead from a place of discomfort and provides the practical insights needed to identify the root of your discomfort, how to harness the courage to lead through it and how to invite others on the journey with you, even when they are uncomfortable too.


  • George Floyd took his last breath beneath the knee of an officer who kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while George begged for his mother and said, “I can’t breathe”.
  • Racial injustice conversations are difficult.
  • When we talk about injustice, it’s a difficult conversation and it’s uncomfortable.
  • Uncomfortable for the people who are subjected to injustice.
  • Uncomfortable for the people who benefit from injustice.
  • Injustice by definition is never neutral—it requires diminishing the humanity of one population of people for the benefit of another population of people.
  • That population of people are often completely unaware and uninvolved with designing the system of injustice that they benefit from.
  • This is what makes conversations about injustice so difficult, because inevitably the conversation finds a way to wind its path to the doorstep of those who have benefited from injustice but weren’t involved in designing it and therefore don’t want to confront it.
  • People took to social media to denounce what happened, to denounce injustice, to denounce racism.
  • From CEOs to megachurch pastors, people descended on social media and said this isn’t right.
  • I thought, “We’re finally going to do it. We’re finally going to have the uncomfortable, difficult, but necessary conversation about racism in America. We’re finally going to open that door and look down on the doorstep and we’re going to see the package with our name on it. And we’re going to open up that package and we’re going to look inside and we’re going to explore its contents to understand what part we may individually be playing to perpetuate injustice.”
  • Leaders who had major platforms and impressive followers were inviting their friends into conversations about race.
  • Having conversations with people who certainly would not characterize them as being part of the problem, because they wouldn’t want to make their friend feel uncomfortable.
  • Having conversations with people who would speak abstractly and hypothetically, because they wouldn’t want to make their friend feel unsafe.
Leading Through Discomfort
  • Leadership means that you cannot make lasting impact while also feeling safe, because feeling safe and making impact are diametrically opposed states of being.
  • Impact requires feeling unsafe because we need the conditions that will force us to confront our areas of weakness in order to grow.

Safe Is Insufficient

  • The challenge placed before leaders is an observation that Albert Einstein made: “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
  • The challenge with safety is when we allow ourselves to occupy places that make us feel safe, we abdicate the opportunity to grow.
  • The opportunity to grow comes wrapped in an affront to how great we think we are.
  • Being not racist is not good enough if neutrality comes with a cost.
  • Watched leaders having uncomfortable conversations in the comfort of their friendship relationships.
  • Realized many leaders were retreating into one of two psychological safe zones.
  • Safety and impact are diametrically opposed states of being.

Safety Zones Leaders Retreat To:

1. Fear
  • Arises out of a perceived risk of loss.
  • It could be real, or it could be perceived.
  • At the extreme ends of fear, we find the risk of losing our livelihood or our life.
  • That rationale is actually just a pretext for the real fear.
  • Those who have accumulated influence and status, who fear losing customers, members or followers because if they leave, what would that make them?
  • “If we did not have those adjectives, what would we be?”
  • As leaders, it is not our job to ignore fear or to deny fear.
  • Fear is real.
  • Our job as leaders is to explore what fear is trying to teach us.
  • Fear is a thermometer telling us there is something that we value that we risk losing.


Don’t act like fear does not exist. When you find yourself retreating into the safe zone of fear, see fear as an invitation to preparation.

  • Assume the worst that could possibly happen is highly probable.
  • If you know it’s the right thing to do, prepare.
  • Prepare for the worst while working for the best.
  • In the case of racial injustice, if you say, “You know what? We’re going to take a firm stand. And we believe that 80% of our customers may walk away from us.” That gives you a signal that perhaps that’s an opportunity to shift resources, to reallocate resources, to acquire more customers that could potentially help to bolster the loss to your baseline, to the loss of your bottom line during that period of attrition.
  • Fear is not paralytic.
  • It may feel like it in the moment. And if it’s left unaddressed, it will eventually immobilize you.
  • When you accept fear’s invitation to prepare, you shift fear from being an immobilizer to being a motivator.
  • As a leader, make fear become the servant of the difficult thing that you know you have to do.
  • Safe is insufficient.
2. Inadequacy
  • When looking at the sheer size and enormity of a challenge and allowing ourselves to feel that we are incapable of fixing the problem.
  • Saying we don’t have the capacity or the capability.
  • When we tell ourselves that we are incapable, we are inadequate and therefore we do nothing.
  • Inadequacy requires false equivalency.
  • Inadequacy causes you to believe the lie that somebody else is better equipped to do what you were assigned to do.
  • How Do You Address The Safe Zone Of Inadequacy?
  • Determine what you can change and change it.
  • We are not called to change the entire world by ourselves.
  • We are called to change that part of the world our influence touches.
  • Inadequacy will make you look at the size of the challenge and walk away from it when you are exactly the person who is needed for your part of the world that you influence.
How Do You Do This?
  • Quantum physics—the idea that anything is possible.
  • Apply constraints within your control in order to make it probable.
Why Does This Matter?
  • Until what’s possible becomes what’s probable, it is not achievable.
  • Many leaders fail and falter because they haven’t taken the time to think about what the constraints within their control is, and applying them to the situation, will increase the probability that things will work out the way envisioned.
When difficult times come, that is not the time for us to retreat into inadequacy.
  • Discover the power that lies within.
  • Whatever degree of power it is, is the power that we need to contribute to the challenge.

7.5 years ago, she was 100 pounds heavier.

Tried so many things to lose weight but nothing worked.

Realized the set of constraints she had not applied to the challenge.

Eating right and working out regularly

She applied them.

After doing that consistently month after month she lost weight.

Some of us are looking at the social unrest around us, and feel we are incapable and incompetent to impact the situation.

You don’t have to have all the power.

Recognize the power you have and apply it to that situation to increase the probability that you will make an impact.

3. Encourage
  • Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him.”
  • God is saying it is not best that man be alone. He didn’t say that it’s impossible. He said it’s not best.
  • Oftentimes leaders will retreat into isolation.
  • Build your pack in order to build your power.
  • We were created to be in community with other people, so that when things get difficult, when things get challenging, when we want to quit, we have a pack of people who won’t let us give up on what they know is within us.
  • The pack knows what’s within you and will speak to your potential.
  • Married over 16 years.
  • Married a month out of college.
  • Many times in the marriage she wasn’t sure they were going to make it.
  • She would call her pack and tell them.
  • The pack would challenge, “let’s figure out how to turn this around for the good.”


  • Identify 3 people you can invite to be in your pack to encourage you when things get difficult.
  • The problem with some leaders is our so-called pack has the same safe zone triggers we do.
  • You need people to speak to the highest possible potential for you.
STORY | Aesop Fable:
  • A fox was walking into the forest and happened to look up.
  • He saw a bunch of grapes hanging in a tree.
  • He began trying to get the grapes.
  • He kept jumping up and jumping up.
  • The birds, squirrels, other foxes, and deer were watching and making fun of him.
  • He heard these voices in his mind.
  • After another he jumped, he stopped.
  • He looked up at the grapes and he said, “They’re probably just sour anyway. I never wanted them.” And he walked off.
How Many Of Us Do That?
  • When we see difficulty ahead, we get exhausted.
  • We hear the voices of people telling us we made a mistake.
  • We allow them to activate fear, to activate feelings of inadequacy.


  • Realize safe is insufficient.
  • Leaders are called to go first.
  • When there is difficulty, leaders are called to go first.
  • When there’s a challenge, leaders are called to go first.
  • When there is injustice, leaders are called to go first.
  • Courage is not the absence of fear.
  • Courage is simply fear in the forward direction.


View All GLS20 Session Notes >>



About the Author
Nona Jones serves as the Head of Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook where she facilitates the company’s work with faith-based organizations around the world.

Nona Jones

Head of Global Faith-Based Partnerships


Nona Jones serves as the Head of Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook where she facilitates the company’s work with faith-based organizations around the world. She is also CEO of eChurch Partners, and is author of two books set to release with Zondervan Publishers in 2020, including “Success from the Inside Out.” She is a graduate of Leadership Florida and the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, a joint initiative of President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.

We welcome and encourage comments on this site. There may be some instances where comments will need to be edited or removed, such as:

  • Comments deemed to be spam or solely promotional in nature
  • Comments not relevant to the topic
  • Comments containing profane, offensive, or abusive language
  • Anonymous comments

If you have any questions on the commenting policy, please let us know at

Join us LIVE Thursday-Friday, August 4-5, 2022Get your tickets for The Global Leadership Summit


Get your tickets before the early bird deadline of June 15, 2022, for $50 off the regular rate!

*Pricing to attend The Global Leadership Summit two-day event on August 4-5, 2022, at our early bird rate is $179 per person (not eligible for on-site main auditorium seats in South Barrington, IL.) All ticket sales are per-person in USD for registration to attend within the U.S. Guests from other countries please contact your GLN or GLS office.

You are located in: US

“We welcome and encourage comments on this site. There may be some instances where comments will need to be edited or removed, such as:

If you have any questions on the commenting policy, please let us know at”

Select your location

Select your location