“Secure-base” leadership – it starts with you.

Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring the concept of “Secure-base” leadership. I will unpack it from different perspectives, bringing in my own thought leadership, and providing some thought pieces for you to consider as you lead your own and others’ practices.

The term “secure-base” came from a concept coined from post-war attachment theory research by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. The theory is underpinned by the belief that all humans have an innate need for closeness, comfort and protection. Their research was based in Post World War II children’s hospitals, where those children who were subjected to sterile, perfunctory, emotionally cold existences, were more likely to die from their illness. Whereas, children who had access to someone who provided care and connection, were more likely to overcome their illness. Their research concluded that children who were provided with a “secure-base” had greater resilience and strength.

Following on from Bowlby and Ainsworth’s research, J.W. Anderson discovered that children who had a “secure-base”, such as a parent, or grandparent, would be more inclined to extend their play area out further, take risks, and explore things more for themselves. On the other hand, children who didn’t have that connection were more inclined to keep close and resist risk-taking.

He noticed that the secure-base parents did two things. They provided love, support, and security, whilst also encouraging risk-taking, exploration and solutioning. 

Taking this into an organisational context, in his book “Care to Dare: Unleashing astonishing potential through secure-based leadership”, George Kohnrieser defines a secure-base as:

A person, place, goal or object, that provides a sense of protection, safety and caring and offers a source of inspiration and energy for daring, exploration, risk-taking and seeking challenge.

The concept of a secure-base is paradoxical, multifaceted, and layered. It involves providing both security and challenge, space and intervention, striving and being. At its core, leadership starts from within. As leaders, we can’t offer others a secure-base, unless we have multiple secure bases of our own.

In this piece, I wish to explore one element of a secure-base: people and goals.

Let me explain the concept. The emotional intelligence competency of self-actualisation is built upon three pillars; one’s ability to set and achieve goals, be passionate about something, and the ability to have a healthy work-life relationship. Like a three-legged stool, we need a balance between all three in order to have a secure-base. When we lean into attaining goals over connections with both ourselves and others, our base becomes unstable. This is when we can become isolated, a workaholic and burn-out can occur. Alternatively, if we are all about fun, passion and connection, we may have a great time, but not achieve much.

Getting this secure-base “right” takes constant recalibration. It begins with self-awareness.

So this week, I invite you to take a moment to consider:
What is your people-to-goal ratio like? How bonded are you to each? Do you have the right balance? How secure is this base?

Go well


Need a speaker?

There are plenty of speakers to choose from. I am not the norm. You won’t be bored to tears by the same ole’ approach and dribble. How about bringing Mary-Anne for the conference or all-staff day.

Give me a stage and I’ll own it. Give me a room and I’ll energise it. Give me your people and I’ll inform and inspire them. 

Need virtual delivery – no sweat! I have facilitated virtual full and half-day workshops, virtual keynote speaking at online conferences, and might I say, you still get the Mary-Anne goodness you deserve!

More details here


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact Mary-Anne

I want to help you and your organisation.
Tell me what you need, and I’ll be in touch real soon.

Yeah, you're ready to Level-Up your Leadership

Enter your details and we'll be in touch when new dates are announced.