38. What You Can Request from the Circle Lead

This page is part of the Holacracy Habits series.

Have you ever wondered why the Circle Lead isn't an elected role? After all, the other three core roles (Circle Rep, Secretary, and Facilitator) are elected; why not the Circle Lead?

It's an insightful question with two simple answers. First, the question itself may arise from a false assumption that Holacracy is “democratic” and therefore people should elect their own leaders. But, Holacracy isn’t a system for governing people, nor is the Circle Lead the “leader” of the circle.

Second, the Circle Lead is just another operational role, and inherent flaws in the election process make it a particularly bad way to fill an operational role.

Elections may work sufficiently well when finding someone with easily visible skills, like facilitating meeting processes (Secretary and Facilitator), or when you need a substitute or proxy for the group (Circle Rep), but when filling operational roles, you just want the best person for the job.

So, we don't elect Circle Leads, nor do we elect people into Product Development, Service Delivery, or Finance roles. The Circle Lead role is an important job, it’s just not more important than the others.

All of this brings us back to the habit, help your Circle Lead, because everyone is involved in shifting power from the person-on-the-top into a shared and explicit ruleset. And with these rules at play, any role can request projects and next actions of any other role in the circle, including the Circle Lead.

In practice, here are some of the most common Circle Lead requests:

  • Prioritizations/strategies (e.g. “Which of my projects in this circle is the highest priority?”)
  • Coaching for you as a role-filler (e.g. “On a scale of 1–10, how much of a fit am I in this role? Why that number?”)
  • Defining metrics for the circle(e.g. “I’d love to see the monthly sales numbers — would you add that as a metric?”)
  • Allocating Resources (e.g. money, getting more people to fill roles, etc.)
  • Assigning or re-assigning roles (e.g. “I know you haven’t found anyone for the Marketing role yet, but I’d like regular updates. Will you take a project for that?”)
  • Anything you need from roles that are currently unfilled (e.g. “Since Marketing is still unfilled, can you take a project to update the newsletter?”)

It's generally the Circle Lead who defines metrics for the circle. However, anyone may request checklist items of other roles.

Making these requests is not only allowed but may be surprisingly welcomed. When you request things, you demonstrate ownership, which means others (not just the Circle Lead role-filler) don't have to worry stuff is falling through the cracks.

So, if you truly need something from the Circle Lead (i.e. it falls within the purpose of the circle, but there isn't a clearly defined role), ask for it.