Attachment-Based Leadership-Part II

Attachment Based Leadership Promo PicIn the previous blog, Attachment Leadership (Part 1), we introduced the 4 S’s of attachment and began to explore how these can be applicable to the workplace. The 4 S’s defined were:

  • Seen– not just seeing with the eyes, but perceiving another deeply and empathetically
  • Safe- avoiding actions and responses that would frighten or hurt the person we are in relationship with
  • Soothed– helping the other person to deal with difficult emotions and situations
  • Secure– helping the other person cultivate an internalized sense of well-being

This language may be very foreign in many business settings. These words may not be built into the company culture. However, there are practical ways to begin to “live out” these concepts and foster an attachment-based leadership culture. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  1. SEEN:

    To truly “see” those you work with it is important to know their story and to understand them (their responses, needs, triggers etc.) in context of their previous personal and professional experiences.

Tip: Initiate an informal coffee or lunch meeting with the staff person and let them know this will be a time for you to learn more about them. Ask them to bring 3 items of meaning or significance to the meeting that represent who they are.


  1. SAFE:

    Once you know a staff member’s story, you will hopefully have a sense of past experiences that may be triggers to feeling unsafe in the work environment. For one person, this may be not receiving frequent or adequate feedback about their performance and thus not feeling certain about their contributions and value to the organization. For another person, feeling unsafe in the workplace may be tied to having conflict with another employee and no clear timeline or format for a resolution process.

Tip: Clarity and predictability is a central component in safety. Within your organizational structure, ensure that roles and processes are clearly defined and there are formal ways for addressing concerns. If navigating conflict, a wonderful resource is “The Anatomy of Peace” by The Arbinger Institute.



    Hurt and misunderstanding is inevitable, even in the strongest of families and work cultures. Those are called “ruptures.” They occur because we are human. The most important consideration in an attachment-based leadership culture is the way those ruptures are For repair to occur, we must be aware of the feelings of those around us and we must value their experiences and needs. Value is more than an idea here. It is an action. It is how one seeks to soothe another who is hurt, scared, confused etc.

Tip: To actively “soothe” another in the workplace, you may need to exercise humility and sacrifice. This reparative process will likely not be an agenda item on a meeting schedule. It cannot often be “planned for.” When a rupture occurs, it may be necessary to set aside your own tasks and to-do lists and seek out the person who is hurting, to listen and to understand. And perhaps seeking forgiveness for an unintended wound.


  1. SECURE:

    It is vital that a supervisor in the workplace be a “secure base” for staff members to launch from. If an individual is securely attached to their boss, they can venture out into their unique role and can trust that their supervisor will be available to guide them, encourage them, support them and even help them navigate their emotions about the challenges and opportunities they face. If an employee is securely attached to their supervisor, they may also find that they have more confidence in their abilities and talents and can act from a place of trust in self.

Tip: Relationship matters! Be available and accessible. When you are not in a meeting, keep your door open and let people know they are invited to seek you out.

Language matters too! Build a language of encouragement and support into your culture. Publicly recognize people for their efforts and contributions and go out of your way to let them know how much you appreciate them. The key message is “I am with you. I am for you!”


Screen shot 2014-10-27 at 11.05.11 AMWant to know more? Mark your calendar for Friday, November 14, 2014 at 7:55 am when we will explore this topic in depth with NBB speaker, Amy Alexander. It may just change the culture of your organization forever!


Brian Lord

I'm passionate about helping kids internationally, both directly, but also by equipping and encouraging others to do so. I've got a great wife and two little girls who always find cool ways to serve and love others.

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