Welcome to the revolutionary world of George Kohlrieser, a world-renowned clinical and organizational psychologist. His book “Care to Dare” is a refreshing take on the age-old dynamics between a successful leader and his team members. It puts forth a host of thought-provoking theories and perspectives on the topic of leadership.
The author George Kohlrieser, who is also an organizational and clinical psychologist besides being a Professor of Organization Behavior and Leadership in many leading institutes around the world, has a compelling proposition: that it is possible for leaders to care deeply and also inspire daring in team members, by being what he terms as “secure base leaders.”
Secure Base Leadership
So what does “secure base leadership” mean? He defines it in the following manner:
“The way a leader builds trust and influences others by providing a sense of protection, safety & caring, and offers a source of inspiration that together produces energy for daring, exploration, risk-taking and seeking challenges.”
A wonderful metaphor that brings this concept alive is that of a belayer and a climber.
As in the figure, when someone is being “belayed”, a rope is looped through an anchor above the immediate climbing area. The climber is attached to one end of the rope. The belayer, using a special device clipped on to his harness, holds the other side of the rope so that the climber has enough slack to move, but not enough to fall any great distance. As the climber advances up the mountain or wall, the belayer watches the climber intently and takes up slack as needed. Essentially, the climber can take the risks inherent in the climb precisely because the belayer is providing a sense of safety. Both the process and the presence of belaying reflects the nuances of secure base leadership.
Clearly, encouraging someone to climb before you secure the belay would be irresponsible. Likewise, stretching someone through professional challenges before you have established a strong platform of safety can result in frustration and stress. Therefore the first step of secure base leadership is to develop a sense of safety and protection by “bonding.”
When you encourage stretch and challenge, you actually reinforce the bond of trust because you are saying, “I believe that you can succeed. I trust you.” The power of secure base leadership is in this self-reinforcing dynamic.
The author then talks about the characteristics of secure base leaders and lists them as below:
- They stay Calm
- They accept the individual
- They see the potential
- They listen and enquire
- They often deliver a powerful message
- They focus on the positive aspects
- They encourage risk-taking
- They inspire through intrinsic motivation
- Their behavior signals accessibility
Being a psychologist, he also delves into how “bonding” actually works through detailing out the “bonding cycle.” For leaders, it is important to understand that unless they facilitate a period of “grieving” it is very difficult for teams to move to “attachment” and subsequent “bonding.”
What Does It Mean To Us?
This has implications on how interventions for teams are designed especially when the team has been through a lot of flux – and needs to be re-energized through a team building program.
The author then goes on to talk about the 4 approaches to leadership. They play out in this way:
- High caring + High Daring = Playing to Win
(Together we can achieve great things)
- High caring + Low Daring = Playing not to Lose.
(Let us be safe and not take too much risk)
- Low caring + High Daring = Playing to Dominate.
(Who needs others? I can do better by myself)
- Low caring + Low Daring = Playing to Avoid.
(I want to be left alone)
The book is written in a manner that stops and asks the reader to assess oneself from time to time on different attributes then goes on to encourage the reader to strengthen their own secure bases, be a secure base for others and encourages leaders to transform their organization into a secure base.
At the heart of it, Care to Dare is a book that inspires leaders to humanize their approach to leadership and nudges them to humanize their organization by opening themselves to the humanity of others.
I would strongly urge each of you to pick up this wonderful book. Read it – and re-read it!