Secure based leadership as a basis for intrapreneurship

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Psychological safety is a hot topic in intrapreneurship, innovation, transformation. Gerard Ketelaar of Quaestusrecommended “Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership”. A book that immediately reminds me of “The new leadership literacies” and in some ways of “The Quantum Leader: A Revolution in Business Thinking and Practice“. Everything is energy.

Secure base leadership

A secure base is 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. Humans are innately driven to seek closeness to, and comfort from, a person who gives them a sense of protection.

High performance

You need that base to leverage high performance. Consistently achieving beyond normal expectations. And secure base leadership ensures that people stay attached to people and goals in their pursuit of success.


Secure Base Leadership is, first and foremost, a way of being. Having a coherent set of feelings, thinking and behaviour. The ability to manage your own state is fundamental to manage yourself and to influence the state of another person.


You have to start with yourself and your self-awareness. Your personal journey defines who you are as a leader. Understanding that our thinking had been unconsciously influenced by significant people, events or experiences in their past or current lives. Understanding your both empowering and limiting beliefs. You do not have to be held hostage to your experiences. Break the habit of being yourself

Map yourself

You can take control of your future in two ways. First, understand how past experiences affect the present. Second, select the secure bases that will support your dreams and aspirations. Starting with actively mapping those out (using, for example, a lifeline where you select the most important events in your life from your childhood to the present day, including both the positive ones and the negative ones). To reflect upon your leadership performance patterns (write up three success stories and three failure stories from your life).

Other question to ask

  • Whom were my secure bases growing up? 
  • Who cared about me and also dared me to attempt the impossible?
  • Which experiences influenced the leader I am today? 
  • What are the “roots of my leadership”?
  • Reflect on the goals you have set throughout your life. Why did you choose a particular goal?
  • What motivated you to achieve it? 
  • How did you go about it?

What is your current style

1. The Secure Style: Playing to Win

A leader, on a good day, are you: Focused on task, action and getting the job done? Focused on the people you work with—caring and daring, supporting and stretching them? Motivated to deliver results with and through the team? As a leader, on a bad day, are you: Fully aware of what worked and what didn’t work? Feeling frustrated or tired and allowing yourself the space for those feelings? Remaining aware that your attitude is a choice and turning to one of your secure bases for support?

2. The Avoidant-Dismissive Style: Playing to Dominate

As a leader, on a good day, are you: Very focused on task, action and getting the job done? Motivated, self-reliant, autonomous? Able to deliver results? As a leader, on a bad day, are you: Adopting a “Do as I do” pacesetting style? Exhibiting coercive, manipulative behaviour? Withdrawing from others under pressure?

3. The Anxious Style: Playing Not to Lose

As a leader, on a good day, are you: Using a consultative, democratic or affiliative leadership style? Caring about others and taking enough time for them? Seeking out alternative views and options? As a leader, on a bad day, are you: Overly anxious about your performance? Needing reassurance beyond normal feedback? Plagued by self-doubt and struggling to make decisions?

4. The Detached Style: Playing to Avoid

As a leader, on a good day, are you: Taking time to reflect? Wanting to achieve a goal, even if you fear the outcome? Deeply desiring acceptance? As a leader, on a bad day, are you: Freezing under pressure? Abdicating your authority? Blaming others?

Working on your new style

It means being a good listener, change mindsets, directing the mind’s eye, pushing people out of the comfort zone, letting people think for themselves, unleash potential and most importantly create bondings. Forming an attachment and connection that creates more physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual energy than the person or people involved could generate independently. Bonding to people is the biggest challenge and a true test of a secure base leader. Social in nature, humans cannot thrive without bonding. People are fundamentally motivated by a sense of belonging. Bonding contributes to motivation, inspiration and resilience. How do you know when you are bonded? When you feel compassion and empathy, share a common goal and are willing to take a risk on the other person, you are bonded.

Creating followers

Secure base leaders engage in a high level of caring and also encourage a high level of daring. It comes down to knowing people and being able to pick up signals about their moods and motivations. It is about how you inspire people. Creating followers Creating trust, belief, self-confidence, autonomy, competence, self-efficacy and self-esteem, a sense of purpose, mastery and autonomy in your team. To authentically create space for people to express their fears and vent their feelings of disappointment. Applying the 4 Ds. Desire, Discipline, Determination and Development


The characteristics of secure based leaders

1. Stays calm and control their amygdala.

2. Accepts the individual and has unconditional positive regard.

3. Sees the potential. Having a deeper vision or even a dream for the person’s deepest potential—not in one year, but in 10 or 20 years.

4. Focus on accountability: Secure base leaders don’t let people off the hook.

5. They master the arts of asking open-ended questions and engaging in a dialogue to seek a greater truth.

6. Have the ability to impact people deeply with single sentences or gestures.

7. Focuses on the positive

8. Actively dare people to unleash their potential by providing tangible opportunities for risk-taking.

9. Inspires through intrinsic motivation. Making things interesting or enjoyable.

9. Signals accessibility

The book is full of tips

  • Watch what you say and how you say it. Tone and manner of communication matter to others.
  • Understand the bonding cycle (attachment, bonding, separation and grief).
  • Understand the importance of grief. It is the door to renewal.
  • Understand that what people resist is the pain of change and the fear of the unknown.
  • A major mistake that business leaders make is failing to recognise that the management team often is a few steps ahead of others on the grief curve in a reorganisation. 
  • Different people and different parts of the organisation will go through the stages of grief at different speeds.
  • Always assume positive intent. 
  • Separate the person from the problem.
  • Hold high expectations.
  • Hire people who have the potential to surpass you.
  • Accept emotions.
  • Accept the human being.
  • Use rituals.
  • Celebrate achievements.
  • The role of the leader is not to tell other people what to do.
  • Words can kill, or words can cure. Words can belittle, or words can inspire. Every word counts. Leadership is storytelling
  • Repeat the story over and over and over. Repeat again.
  • Keep a notebook of powerful, short messages.
  • You are the master of your fate. You are the captain of your soul.
  • Guide the mind’s eye or focus of your team. High performers stay focused on a goal rather than on pain, frustration or discomfort. This focus gives them inspiration and confidence to take the risks necessary to achieve their potential.
  • The ability to manage your own state is directly related to achieving the results you want. Work on state management. By “state,” we mean how a person “is” at any one moment in time—her physiology, attitude, emotions, mood, behaviour and beliefs as they all come together, internally and externally.
  • What you think affects the outcome. And often, through your thinking, you may limit yourself and others and not realise what may be possible. 
  • Look at almost any biography of an outstanding leader, and you will notice that its subject was an optimist.
  • Be fair and clear about failure.
  • Get to know your people as individuals.
  • Lead by walking around.
  • No matter how much of a secure base you have been to date, you can always improve your skills and increase your effectiveness in creating your own form of caring and daring.
  • Improve your capacity for deep dialogue (Bookbuzz)
  • Know how you feel all the time.
  • Leaders play an enormous modelling role. Leaders’ actions transmit messages throughout their sphere of influence.
  • Show vulnerability

There are four leadership approaches

  • Courage, together we can achieve great things 
  • Cocoon, Let us be safe and not take too much risk.
  • Control, who needs others? I can do better by myself.
  • Closet, I want to be left alone.

And six leadership styles

  1. Affiliative
  2. Democratic
  3. Coercive
  4. Pacesetting
  5. Authoritative
  6. Coaching

It is all about culture

Your ultimate success as a secure base leader comes when you influence not only a handful of individuals but also the very culture of your organisation. In essence, every organisation is a product of how its members think and interact. When the vision, mission, values and strategy, as well as the structural elements like policies, procedures and human resource systems—come together in the spirit of providing both security and stretch, the organisation becomes a secure base. Having a vision or mission statement alone is not enough to make your organisation a secure base. The statement needs to be authentic and resonate with the employees as a part of their daily lives. When the organisation consists of a network of people bonded together and to the organisation, engagement becomes ingrained and long-lasting.

How do you achieve such deep integration?

  • Focus on systems, mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning
  • Focus on the learning you can achieve along the way, not just on the end goal. Any failure is an opportunity to learn.
  • Work with what you can change rather than worrying about those pieces you can’t change.
  • Strive for excellence, not for perfection.
  • Break the big challenge down into small steps. 
  • Approach change systematically and make changes on a daily basis to maximise your chances of success.

Read “Pirates In The Navy: How Innovators Lead Transformation“.

It is also about purpose

Secure base leadership provides the safety and risk, trust and exploration—the caring and daring—necessary for organisations in today’s tumultuous world. Such missions invite people to use the vehicle of the organisation to have a positive impact on the world. One of the most significant and most promising shifts happening today is the increased focus on social and environmental responsibility in the mission and purpose of organisations.

Ultimately it is about humanity

Command-and-control, top-down management, employment-for-life, climbing the corporate ladder and staying at the top are diminishing day by day. The way companies organise work—or, more precisely, how leaders organise work—can either support or block people’s very humanity. Read “Humanocracy“. The rapidly changing nature of today’s world is here to stay. Our concern is that in the drive to be efficient, lean, adaptable and innovative, the human dimension of organisations may be ignored or minimised. In your attitude, state, and authenticity, you will be operating as a secure base. When you take the journey to become a secure base leader, you enhance first your own human spirit, then the human spirit of others, and finally the humanity of your organisation.

The impact on intrapreneurship and innovation

A secure base is essential for intrapreneurship and innovation. What emerges from curiosity, openness, fascination, learning, creativity, teamwork, collaboration, pattern recognition, psychological safety, experimentation and, of course, acceptance of failure in that experimentation process. It is not about technology; it is about ideas and ideas that come from people. With purpose and humanity in mind. 


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