The Circle of Safety – Simon Sinek’s Rule For Great Leadership


Simon Sinek – Leaders Eat Last

I recently finished Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last. It took me one hour each day for seven days to read it; it took Simon twelve months to write it. In Acknowledgements, in the last chapter of his book, Simon mentions working fourteen hours a day for many days on end. He did extensive research on the subject, talked to many people, he flew to Afghanistan and interviewed commanders in the American Air Force and the American Navy, where great leadership makes the difference between life and death.

Learn more: Simon Sinek – 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Him

Simon is a cultural anthropologist by training and it shows extensively in his book. Cultural anthropology is in my top three most interesting topics so you can imagine my enthusiasm – I couldn’t put the book down. But don’t worry, there is no scientific jargon. Simon’s writing flows effortlessly and it is easy to understand. It’s a great book and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do so as soon as possible.


image source: trulyhumanleadership.com

Leaders Eat Last is a book on leadership; what makes it stand out from other books on the same topic is the author’s approach.

Simon Sinek takes a fresh and original approach to leadership – he looks at leadership through the lens of cultural anthropology. What makes the book very interesting is that his observations are supported by real-life business case studies.

It’s not the purpose of this article to review the book but to introduce you to one of Simon Sinek’s concepts –

The Circle of Safety.

What is The Circle of Safety?

The goal of great leadership is to inspire employees to deliver their best work and support the organisation to become successful. Notice I didn’t use the verb manage because employees don’t expect to be managed – they expect to be inspired.


What are leaders required to do to achieve this goal?

All they need to do, according to Simon Sinek is implement The Circle of Safety in their organisation.

First, let’s establish what a successful organisation is. Here is Simon Sinek’s definition of the successful organisation:

A successful organisation overtakes its competitors through innovation, inspires respect both inside and outside, has the highest level of loyalty among its employees, the highest retention rate and has the ability to overcome any challenges that may arise.

Second, in regard to the concept of safety, Simon notes the following: safety goes both ways in that the leader ensures the safety of his employees and in turn, the employees ensure the safety of the organisation.

Having said that, let’s delve into The Circle of Safety concept and discover how it serves and supports great leadership.

Leaders have one job only: to create a company culture in which employees cooperate naturally towards growing the business. That’s the safety zone: when employees come to work not for the company, but for themselves and their colleagues.

Learn more: Keeping Your Employees Happy Is More Than A Higher Paycheck

Trust the leaders, trust the employees

How do leaders create this type of company culture? By earning their employees’ trust.

The trust between the organisation and its employees is essential. To earn their employees’ trust, leaders must first empower them.


When you work with people you trust they will do their job better in order to deserve and keep your trust. These employees will show loyalty and commitment to the organisation without the need for exterior incentives like promises, financial bonuses or other perks.

When people feel appreciated by the organisation, they feel safe and relaxed; this allows them to care about and connect with their colleagues and start working as a team to support the organisation achieve success and prosperity.

Protection from outside threats

Trust means employees feel protected from threats coming from inside the organisation.

When there are no layoff threats looming over them or workplace rivalries they must fight in order to survive, employees are more prepared to protect the company from outside threats. Internal rivalries lead to the weakening of the company, making it less capable of standing up to potential dangers.


People first, revenues second

Leaders must make employees their top priority, not company sales or revenues. No financial goal should take precedence over the people. In times of business crises, Simon supports the strategy of sacrificing financial vectors to save the employees- not the other way around.

Unlike the threats from outside the company which are not in our control, leaders can control the threats from inside the organisation.

They can take steps towards eliminating intimidation, humiliation, biased attitudes, isolation, feeling useless, feeling rejected and being stressed. Workplace stress and anxiety have very serious consequences on our health and well-being- there’s no doubt about it. Statistics report a direct link between a negative workplace and a wide range of illnesses: from physical and mental fatigue to obesity, heart disease, burnout and eventually death. Increasing levels of detachment among employees are also causing low retention and engagement rates.

BM23 - Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton will teach you how to keep your employees engaged and motivated to do great work. Get your tickets today!

No safety zone means a dangerous environment for the organisation

When the organisation doesn’t provide a safety zone for its people, various case studies of prominent companies showed that it gives rise to negative feelings like paranoia, cynicism and employees with personal agendas. In short: a dog-eat-dog kind of culture where arrogance, inflating egos and fear make the rules.

When employees are left to fend for themselves, they withhold valuable information regarding an imminent threat to the organisation. The relationships between employees and leaders are weak and everyone seeks to satisfy their own interests. That’s what happened to Nokia. Nokia’s culture of status, shared fear and temporal myopia contributed to its downfall. 

Leaders can fight negativity by creating a powerful culture based on a transparent set of values and beliefs. In this culture, employees are given the power to make decisions on their own because their leaders have previously shown trust and empathy. Which means building the safety zone.


A safe environment breeds innovation

It’s the natural cooperation between employees that makes the company powerful and resilient, not their products or services.

When people believe that everyone else inside the company will take care of them, they will contribute to the free exchange of information and data.

Sharing knowledge and information is what great leadership is all about

In a safe organisation, the leader is willing to share knowledge and information just as much as the next employee. Actually, it’s the leader who sets the tone and takes the first step down the path of sharing valuable information.

Numerous case studies and research data report that a favourable working environment leads to organisational stability and long-term high-level performances.

We also maintain our loyalty towards the employer, we help each other and we take pride in our work doing our jobs with passion.


A leader’s role is to set the tone

A leader’s role is to be the first who throws himself in front of danger to protect the group.

When the safety zone is in place, this doesn’t happen because it doesn’t have to. The safety zone protects him and the organisation. His people protect the company from outside dangers so the situation in which he has to sacrifice himself doesn’t arise at all.

The true social benefit of trust is reciprocity. Trust feeds itself. The organisation supports the development and growth of its employees in order for them to take on more important responsibilities.


A leader’s job is to teach and mentor his employees into becoming more competent and to earn their trust.

If the organisation doesn’t trust its people, it will monitor and surveil them, it will time their bathroom breaks and phone conversations.

Leaders rely on employees to provide firsthand information and data and employees rely on their leaders to provide direction, guidance and safety.

Join BRAND MINDS 2023 and learn how to become a better leader from global business thinkers James Clear, Nassim Taleb, Lynda Gratton, Neil Patel, Renee Mauborgne, Blair Singer, Anne-Marie Imafidon and Duncan Wardle!


How to increase trust and create well-being in your organization

“Trust is the willingness to be vulnerable to the action of others. Trust is a choice. Trust means that we have confidence in the intentions and motives of the other party. We trust it to advance and to protect our interests, our wellbeing. We understand trust as being the quality of love, commitment, friendship and partnership,” wrote Aldo Civico for Psychology Today.

According to weforum.com, PwC has conducted research, run focus groups and talked to both leading experts as well as the everyday person on the topic of trust, the question being: what makes up trust in a business – and can it be quantified? What they found out was that, indeed, trust could be measured.  When considering if a company should be called trustworthy, people are looking for:

· Competence – Does the organization do what it says it will?
People expect companies to be reliable and transparent. A fast-food company should be upfront about the possibility their delivery will be delayed, for example. In cases of major delay, companies should be forthright about not even accepting the customer’s order. Fast food is supposed to be “fast”, after all.

· Experience – Does the organization keep its promises?
Companies are expected to be responsive, to listen to public feedback, to make the necessary improvements and treat customers as individuals. (My experience with Marks & Spencer’s high-quality and consistent customer service comes to mind again.)

· Values – Do you believe in the organization?
People want brands to understand their needs, to hold the right sort of principles and to care about their impact on society. Clothing retailers that source their cotton from fair trade suppliers are increasingly in demand because they are not seen to be exploiting cheap labour and because their products will benefit small-scale agricultural workers.

At the same time, The Ken Blanchard Companies researchers surveyed 1,800 workers looking at the connections between trust, well-being and coaching behaviors.The research found that trust and well-being were both positively impacted by perceptions of managers engaging in three key behaviors.

  1. Facilitation: Helping employees to analyze and explore ways to solve problems and enhance their performance.
  1. Guidance: The communication of clear performance expectations and constructive feedback regarding performance outcomes, as well as how to improve.
  1. Inspiration: Challenging employees to realize and develop their potential.

Moreover, a paper which accompanies the research shared four coaching skills to help managers move away from some typical tendencies—telling people what to do, making assumptions, and solving problems—and instead adopt a coaching mindset. Those skills are: listen to learn, inquire for insight, tell your truth and express confidence. 

On its turn, inc.com identifies four critical elements of trust that leaders need to be aware of and that apply to both leaders and team members alike: able, believable, connected and dependable. More on their perspective one can read here.

Authenticity in marketing versus authenticity in business

“Authenticity is the key component of what makes social media so successful for businesses. Authentic social media is the modern day testimonial: It allows users to interact with businesses in real time, but also creates an open space for conversation and feedback. If a person is having a hard time receiving assistance from a business’s customer service, for instance, all they need to do is tweet at them for a response. Other users can get involved depending on the severity of the situation, forcing all sides to be accountable,” wrote Kelly Samuel for Forbes.

A research shows that 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before already forming an opinion about a business. In an age of ever-advancing technology and communication, online reviews remain an important part of consumer research and decision-making. Why? Because they appear to be honest and authentic. We want brands and products in whose statements we can trust.

“There is tremendous power behind authentic and honest messaging. When the story resonates, the audience listens, and when we hear what they are saying and respond with thought, the conversation continues and we all benefit. Brand honesty and authenticity build trust for your content marketing efforts not because you are saying what they want to hear, but because you’re saying what’s real,” wrote expresswriters.com.


Moreover, we think of an authentic company as one that stays true to their core values, principles, and overall brand. Therefore, authenticity is especially important for branding. “If a company decides they want to represent themselves in a way that is different than they normally do, they run the risk of losing the trust of their clients and therefore their integrity and authenticity. Honesty is a quality every company should aspire to have, but not everyone is transparent, which creates a climate of dishonesty,” said elevatemybrand.com.

Marketers must understand that putting brand truth into practice starts with understanding perceptions. Using in-depth research and insights to quantify perceptions and behaviors, will help you know exactly what drives your audience and their interactions with your brand, vastly improving your chances of appealing to the new consumer – who expects nothing less. Using complex data to maintain an audience-centric approach and reach consumers with the right message, in the right place, at the right time. Rather than relying on assumption and a vague understanding of your target audience, the data in existence today is transforming what’s possible by pointing us in what we know to be the right direction.

“Authenticity comes down to giving people a reason to care. Consumers want to care – they want to believe that their purchase is making a difference somewhere, somehow, that the brands they are supporting with their hard-earned dollars are living out the values that they believe in. People respond to honesty, integrity, enthusiasm and love, and they can spot frauds from a mile away. It’s never too late to look for the authenticity that exists within your business and to capitalize on it with thoughtful, engaging campaigns,” explains go.tenthcrowcreative.com.

AdAge.com puts the finger on the reality but offering you the great piece of advice: Don’t say you are authentic — be authentic. “Straight-talking” and “plugged-in” are both better word choices to personify your brand. “Attributes should be sufficiently nuanced to drive differentiation through creative expression in a way that will foster a real audience connection. Skittles is one of my favorite examples. Brand attributes for the company’s “Taste the Rainbow”campaign were unpredictable and irreverent. They provided a clear and genuine brand POV that resulted in fun and crazy — not annoying — creative that engaged its audience while driving brand lift and sales,” concluded Jill Byron.

What you need to know about the 70 percent rule

According to investopedia.com, the rule of 70 is a way to estimate the number of years it takes for a certain variable to double. “To estimate the number of years for a variable to double, take the number 70 and divide it by the growth rate of the variable. This rule is commonly used with an annual compound interest rate to quickly determine how long it takes to double your money,” writes the website.

Also, the rule is very popular in the real estate world, where the 70% of ARV (after repair value) “rule” is a formula commonly referred to by real estate investors, and used as a barometer when purchasing distressed real estate for a profit.  The formula will calculate the maximum you can pay for a given property once you input two key factors, namely the ARV and estimated repair costs.

But, “it is critical to realize the 70% “rule” is not a one size fits all model that can be applied universally to all situations, markets or exit strategies.  As a result investors who try to uniformly apply this 70% rule will consequently get less offers accepted. If you treat it with such regard, you will miss out on deals because your offers will be less competitive. Being in tune with your market is key and allows you to make more competitive, fair offers that have a higher chance of being accepted,” says biggerpockets.com.

source: SlidesShare

At the same time, though differently, the rule is also used by CEOs while delegating their power. When instead of money we are talking about performance,productivity, engagement and life-work balance.

According to inc.com, this 70 percent performance standard allows the CEO to aggressively move tasks to team members and have them perform the tasks at an acceptable level. “One important point is that if you delegate a task fully, you shouldn’t try to coach up the receiver to get back that 30 percent difference. When it comes to effective delegation, not only does communication need to be clear, concise, and consistent, but also you need to make sure each team member has access to the same information. Trust is one of the most important factors when it comes to delegation, and it goes both ways. You need to trust that your team members will complete the work they are responsible for, and your team members need to trust that you are giving them all the information they need to do the work. You will be available to back them up when necessary, writes Jim Schleckser for inc.com.

As techtarget.com points out, , according to the 70 percent rule, employees are most productive not when they are working as hard as they can from day to day but when they work, most of the time, at a less intense pace. “In this way, when demands are increased temporarily, they have some capacity to respond, whereas the employee working full-out is incapable of producing any more. (…) Best practices for incorporating the 70 percent rule include taking vacations and mini-breaks, leaving some of the day unscheduled and learning to refuse unreasonable work demands,” concludes TechTarget.

BRAND MINDS premium announcements straight to your inbox

Subscribe and get 5% discount for tickets

    You agree to our terms and conditions.

    OK, I agree to receive the BRAND MINDS newsletter with information from industry leaders and business experts. The content is related to ultimate technologies, marketing trends and updates about BRAND MINDS events.

    OK, I agree to receive the latest info and offers for BRAND MINDS events when I am surfing on other websites as well. For this, I agree to allow cookies and other online digital marketing tools to personalize site content, social media features and to analyze the traffic by sharing my navigation status with BRAND MINDS SRL advertising and social media partners such as, but not limited to, Meta, LinkedIn and Google.

    × WhatsApp Help