A growing body of research has pointed out effective leadership as an important influencing factor for safety performance in various high-risk industrial contexts. However, limited systematic knowledge is available about how leaders can effectively persuade rule compliance, and stimulate actions and participation. Recognizing effective means of influence is of value for safety leadership development and evaluation. This study seeks to empirically investigate leaders’ influence tactics for safety in a maritime context. Qualitative exploration is performed with data being collected through focus group discussions and individual interviews with 41 experienced shipboard leaders from various shipping sectors. Five core influence tactics—coaching, role modeling, pressure, consultation and exchange tactics—appeared to be the shipboard leaders’ effective tactics to influence subordinates’ safety compliance and participation behaviors in ship operations. Safety leadership influences flow from exemplification, expert and personal sources of power, and being pursued through soft and rational influence tactics rather than coercion or constructive inducements. The results indicate that the more relationship-oriented the leaders are, the more effective their safety leadership would be in influencing safety behaviors. The implication of the results for maritime safety leadership research, maritime education and training are discussed.
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