Humble Leadership

The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust

Edgar Schein (Author) | Peter A. Schein (Author)

Publication date: 08/14/2018

Humble Leadership
The more traditional form of leadership that is based on immobile hierarchies is growing increasingly outdated and ineffective. Without the ability to actually communicate with their peers, leaders become alienated from their followers and productivity and quality are sacrificed. Authors Edgar Schein and Peter Schein recognize this reality and call for a reimagined form a leadership that coincides with emerging trends of relationship building, complex group work, and diverse workforces. Gaining a deeper understanding of the constantly evolving complexities of interpersonal, group and even intergroup relationships requires shifting our focus towards the process of group dynamics and collaboration. The humble leadership paradigm stresses the importance of studying of how things are being done through collaboration and humility. This space of collaboration is often where invention and brand-new ways of getting things done are created, rather than in the tunnel vision of new ideas of products, markets, or production methods. The future of leadership is dependent on working relationships that are trusting and open. Humble leaders don't shy away from human connection in the workplace but rather see it as an opportunity for growth and success.

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Overview

The more traditional form of leadership that is based on immobile hierarchies is growing increasingly outdated and ineffective. Without the ability to actually communicate with their peers, leaders become alienated from their followers and productivity and quality are sacrificed. Authors Edgar Schein and Peter Schein recognize this reality and call for a reimagined form a leadership that coincides with emerging trends of relationship building, complex group work, and diverse workforces. Gaining a deeper understanding of the constantly evolving complexities of interpersonal, group and even intergroup relationships requires shifting our focus towards the process of group dynamics and collaboration. The humble leadership paradigm stresses the importance of studying of how things are being done through collaboration and humility. This space of collaboration is often where invention and brand-new ways of getting things done are created, rather than in the tunnel vision of new ideas of products, markets, or production methods. The future of leadership is dependent on working relationships that are trusting and open. Humble leaders don't shy away from human connection in the workplace but rather see it as an opportunity for growth and success.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Edgar Schein



THE AUTHOR- IN HIS OWN WORDS

My book Humble Inquiry represents a culmination and distillation of my 50 years of work as a social and organizational psychologist. After undergraduate training at the University of Chicago and Stanford, my Ph.D. training at Harvard’s Department of Social Relations in the early 1950s was as an experimental social psychologist. I then spent four years at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and began a gradual process of becoming more interested in the sociological details of what went on between people in various kinds of relationships. 

My first major research was on the indoctrination of military and civilian prisoners of the Chinese Communists (Coercive Persuasion, 1961), which led to an examination of such indoctrination in large corporations when I became a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1956. It seemed obvious that the important thing to study next was the process of interaction of the individual with the organization, which led to the successful coauthored book on this topic—Interpersonal Dynamics (coauthored with Warren Bennis, Fritz Steele, David Berlew, and later John Van Maanen, 3rd ed. 1973) and to an integrated text which helped to define the field (Organizational Psychology, 3rd ed. 1980). 

The indoctrination and socialization research led inevitably to the discovery through a 15-year panel study that in an open society like the United States, individuals will exercise choices and will be able to shape their careers around strong self images or “career anchors” (Career Dynamics, 1978; Career Anchors, 4th ed. coauthored with John Van Maanen, 2013). 

Working with Group Dynamics workshops in Bethel, Maine, and consulting with Digital Equipment Corporation for many years led to the concept of process consultation and the important discovery that the best path to helping people learn is not to tell them anything but to ask the right questions and let them figure it out. I first spelled this out in 1969 as a contribution to consultation methodology (Process Consultation, 1969; Process Consultation Revisited, 1999) and found that it applies in many interpersonal situations, especially when we try to give or receive help. 

All of these processes happen within a culture, so a more detailed study of organizational and occupational cultures led to intensive work on corporate culture—how to think about it, how to change it, and how to relate culture to other aspects of organizational performance. With Organizational Culture and Leadership (4th ed. 2010) and The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (2nd ed. 2009) I helped to define the field. 

The role of leaders as both creators of culture and ultimately victims of culture led to more detailed analyses of interpersonal processes and to two empirical studies of organizational cultures—Strategic Pragmatism: The Culture of Singapore’s Economic Development Board (1996) and DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation (2003). 

The years of consulting, teaching, and coaching inevitably led to the realization that some processes such as Helping were not well understood and often poorly practiced. The book Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help (2009) was thus an attempt both to analyze and improve that process. It was in that analysis that I realized that Humble Inquiry is not just necessary when we give or receive help but is a more general form of asking that builds relationships. I realized further that building positive relationships is at the core of effective communication and getting work done safely and well. But my work on culture showed me, at the same time, why Humble Inquiry is difficult. 

The current book Humble Inquiry brings together all of these trends in showing how culture and individual behavior interact, and what it will take in the way of countercultural behavior to deal with the changes that are happening in the world. 

 

AUTHOR AWARDS

Ed has been recognized for his work with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Workplace Learning and Performance from the American Society of Training Directors (2000), the Everett Cherington Hughes Award for Career Scholarship from the Careers Division of the Academy of Management (2000), the Marion Gislason Award for Leadership in Executive Development from the Boston University School of Management Executive Development Roundtable (2002), the Lifetime Achievement Award as Scholar/ Practitioner from the Academy of Management (2009), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Leadership Association (2012). 

After 48 years at MIT and after losing his wife in 2008, Ed moved to Palo Alto in 2011, where he is retired but still writing. He has three children and seven grandchildren who live in Seattle, New Jersey, and Menlo Park, California. You can reach him via his e-mail at [email protected]


Visit Author Page - Peter A. Schein

Peter Schein has an undergraduate degree in anthropology from Stanford, an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern, and has worked in management over the last 25 years in Silicon Valley. Most recently he worked at Sun Microsystems in corporate development and M&A. Humble Leadership is his second writing collaboration with his father, Ed.

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Endorsements

"Effective leadership is all about building trust and relationships. With Humble Leadership, Ed and Peter help us to actually get there by understanding relationships on a much more granular and tangible level."
—Severin Schwan, CEO Roche Group

“In an era of national cynicism and dismay, this call for empathy, trust, and collaboration is a timely breath of fresh air with relevance for leaders at all levels.”
—Lucian Leape, Adjunct Professor of Health Policy (retired), Harvard School of Public Health
“In focusing on ‘levels of relationships,' the book explains how…emerging leaders can succeed by interacting with peers and those reporting to them in ways that are in stark contrast to the coercive and ‘bad behaviors' we are currently hearing about. Ed and Peter Schein offer them an alternative and far superior approach to leadership—one based on cooperative relationships with others that emphasize trust and respect and, in turn, lead to stronger and more effective organizations.”
—Robert A. Cooke, author of Human Synergistics' Organizational Culture Inventory

“For those in the health-care world who face the challenge of leading organizations with layers of administrative and clinical complexity, this book offers a path to success. Humble leadership, as the authors remind us, though, is no mere philosophy. It is a result of disciplined attention to structure, culture, and relationships. The Scheins offer a persuasive road map to achieve this understanding and true effectiveness in institutional settings.”
—Paul F. Levy, former CEO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and author of Goal Play!

“Humility may be the modern leader's most important attribute. In a complex, dynamic world, humility is simply realism. This powerful and thoroughly engaging book delivers the wisdom of Edgar Schein's half century of research and practice dedicated to helping organizations and those who manage them. Its authors—a pioneering organizational scholar and his son—embody humility as they describe its power in transforming organizations. Compelling case studies clarify the humble leadership approach and make it actionable.”
—Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School

“Edgar and Peter Schein's new book,
Humble Leadership, builds on decades of study focused on organizational culture and leadership. They articulate the criticality of leadership in successful organizations and the strong correlation of relationships that go beyond the transactional with successful leaders and successful organizations. This is a must read for reflective leaders at all levels seeking to enhance their effectiveness and execution in pursuit of their organizational mission and vision.”
—Gary S. Kaplan MD, Chairman and CEO, Virginia Mason Health System, Chair Lucian Leape Institute

“Edgar and Peter Schein have built on a series of previous informative books such as
Helping and Humble Inquiry with their new book, Humble Leadership. The insights into the importance of relationships and building an atmosphere of openness and trust are helpful to all leaders. I believe it is particularly informative for those in health care, dealing with the marked technical and operational complexities.”
—Lane F. Donnelly, MD, Chief Quality Officer, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, and Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine

Humble Leadership introduces a new model for leadership that supports effectiveness in a rapidly changing world where leaders and their followers are being driven by deeply entrenched cultural norms. The timeless insights about relationships, personizing, group process, and culture will help every leader.”
—Tim Kuppler, Director of Culture and Organization Development, Human Synergistics, and cofounder of CultureUniversity.com

The book offers a deeply human approach to leadership that is attuned to the staggering complexity, rapid change, and uncertainty facing anyone aiming to make a difference in today's world. Written as a joint project by Ed Schein and his son Peter, Humble Leadership is a way of being a leader that does not rely on transactional power, but on the relational power that comes from trust, openness and collaboration. Illustrated with rich case examples from the Schein's extensive practices as organizational consultants and exercises to develop leadership capacities of one's own, the book has the ring of authenticity that comes from the hearts of people who have walked the walk.
—Maureen O'Hara, International Futures Forum & National University. Co-Author, with Graham Leicester of Dancing at the Edge: Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century

Leadership is a socio-technical process, but most leaders have only been prepared for the technical dimension; despite their best intentions, their performance and that of their teams and organizations falls short. Humble Leadership aims squarely at this problem – how to attend to the social dimension - and hits a bull's-eye. This compact and lively volume shows why organizations cannot thrive on impersonal interactions, but instead require higher-order relationships that engender trust and honest conversation. Presenting fundamental principles and many instructive examples, it also provides very practical guidance about how to establish such relationships. Readers from my industry, healthcare, will find described in this book exactly the leadership practices that are needed backstage to achieve patient-centered or relationship-centered care on the front lines. This is going to be a very impactful book!
—Anthony L. Suchman, MD, MA, Senior Consultant, Relationship Centered Health Care

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