Summer is a great time to catch up on some non-required reading. And if my fellow supervisors are like me, it is also a great time to assess your supervisory skills, style and to learn more about the craft of supervision. It’s typically not something you are trained how to do but more so a skill developed over time. I was excited this summer to pick up Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last,” as I had heard many good things about it from colleagues and wanted to read it as another lens to assist me in my ability to supervise and lead staff.
Sinek is a great writer. He has the ability to merge a lot of complex ideas into an easy to read format, which I appreciate. Leaders Eat Last focuses on the leader’s ability to create a Circle of Safety in the workplace that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. I see it time and time again in student affairs where supervisors do their best to manage their team but are ineffective leaders. Many times, that primarily centers on the fact that the supervisor, intentionally or not, does not create a workplace where employees feel safe. Be it safe from getting fired from their job, to safe in knowing they are walking into a supportive work environment, fear breeds bad things in people and keeps organizations from moving forward.
Think about it. Our work can be challenging. We have to be adaptable and hard working to last in the field. At any given moment, the tables might shift or turn completely and the game has changed. This can very easily produce anxiousness, poor work ethic or burn-out in even the greatest professional. But imagine a team atmosphere where the supervisor takes the fall first. Where the change will first affect them and then trickle down to staff. Imagine if the bosses sacrificed their own comfort for what’s best for the team. Imagine walking into a truly supportive and protected dynamic.
Sinek argues our need for protection in our environments has long been around before the traditional workplace existed. He explains that it’s not a management technique but pure biology. We must have our most basic needs met: shelter, food and safety. Among the first to inhabit the Earth, hunters and gatherers worked together for these things. Today is really no different. We thrive when we feel safe and protected in our group working together towards a common goal.
The Circle of Safety creates loyal employees who feel like they belong and who can advance the organization’s vision. Thus, they have potential to create some big change and seize great opportunities.
Through a student affairs lens, it is easy to see how this leadership style can not only create a strong, effective staff, but contribute to student success and retention by working together. How could you go wrong with that?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Josie Ahlquist on Digital Identity, Social Media & Leadership