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 forms of leadership that are based on static hierarchies and professional distance between leaders and followers are growing increasingly outdated and ineffective. As organizations face more complex interdependent tasks, leadership must become more personal in order to insure open trusting communication that will make more collaborative problem solving and innovation possible. Without open and trusting communications throughout organizations, they will continue to face the productivity and quality problems that result from reward systems that emphasize individual competition and “climbing the corporate ladder”. Authors Edgar Schein and Peter Schein recognize this reality and call for a reimagined form of leadership that coincides with emerging trends of relationship building, complex group work, diverse workforces, and cultures in which everyone feels psychologically safe. Humble Leadership calls for “here and now” humility based on a deeper understanding of the constantly evolving complexities of interpersonal, group and intergroup relationships that require shifting our focus towards the process of group dynamics and collaboration. Humble Leadership at all levels and in all working groups will be the key to achieving the creativity, adaptiveness, and agility that organizations will need to survive and grow.

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Overview

The more traditional forms of leadership that are based on static hierarchies and professional distance between leaders and followers are growing increasingly outdated and ineffective. As organizations face more complex interdependent tasks, leadership must become more personal in order to insure open trusting communication that will make more collaborative problem solving and innovation possible. Without open and trusting communications throughout organizations, they will continue to face the productivity and quality problems that result from reward systems that emphasize individual competition and “climbing the corporate ladder”. Authors Edgar Schein and Peter Schein recognize this reality and call for a reimagined form of leadership that coincides with emerging trends of relationship building, complex group work, diverse workforces, and cultures in which everyone feels psychologically safe. Humble Leadership calls for “here and now” humility based on a deeper understanding of the constantly evolving complexities of interpersonal, group and intergroup relationships that require shifting our focus towards the process of group dynamics and collaboration. Humble Leadership at all levels and in all working groups will be the key to achieving the creativity, adaptiveness, and agility that organizations will need to survive and grow.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Edgar Schein

THE AUTHOR, IN HIS OWN WORDS

My newest book, Humble Leadership, which was co-authored with my son Peter, brings together 50 years of work on culture and leadership. 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 goes 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 to then study the process of interaction of the individual with the organization, which led to the successful coauthored book, Interpersonal Dynamics (coauthored with Warren Bennis, Fritz Steele, David Berlew, and later John Van Maanen, 3rd ed. 1973) and later, an integrated text that helped to define the field (Organizational Psychology, 3rd ed. 1980).

Through a 15-year panel study, the indoctrination and socialization research led to the discovery that in an open society, like the United States, individuals will exercise choices and 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 led to the concept of process consultation and the important discovery that the best path to helping people learn is 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 (5th ed. with Peter Schein, 2017) and The Corporate Culture Survival Guide (2nd ed. 2009), I helped to define the field.

The role of leaders as both creators 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 to both analyze and improve that process. Within that analysis, I realized Humble Inquiry is not just necessary when we give or receive help, but it 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.

Building personal relationships has to be done rapidly in this fast paced world, so I wrote Humble Consulting (2016) to illustrate how this has worked in my own consulting. My son and I then realized that, together, we could collect these ideas into a book on leadership that dealt with the current realities of complexity and the need for more collaboration through highlighting the importance of building personal relationships in organizations and working more effectively with groups.

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 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

“This is the key book for the new age of human organizations. It ought to be compulsory reading for anyone who is given charge of any operation.” 
—Charles Handyauthor of The Second Curve
 
“The future will reward humility and punish arrogance. Ed and Peter Schein show us both the power and the strength of humble leadership. This book
 is an antidote to arrogance and a practical guide to making the future.” 
—Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future, and author of The New Leadership Literacies
 
“This book outlines the pathway to a culture of cooperation and trust and the leadership needed to create this. If you take it seriously, 
Humble Leadership is the only book on management that you will ever need.” 
—Peter Block, author of Stewardship and Flawless Consulting and coauthor of An Other Kingdom
 
“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. Compelling case studies clarify the humble leadership approach and make it actionable.” 
—Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School, and coauthor of Building the Future
 
"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, Founding Fellow, International Futures Forum; Professor, National University; and coauthor, with Graham Leicester, of Dancing at the Edge
 
"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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