Humble Leadership- Chapter 1

Hello! It’s been quite awhile since I have posted to my blog and decided that now is as good a time as any to jump back into blogging, particularly since my goals have always been to spark new dialogs and share my knowledge. And a great way of accomplishing those goals is through a blog.

So, with that being said, let’s start the new year with a review of a book from one of my favorite thought leaders- Edgar Schein, who is most know for his research on organizational culture. If you are not familiar with  Dr. Schein’s work, here is a great opportunity to get to know some of his ideas.

So why this book, you might ask? Well, that’s a great question. One of my primary areas of interest is in leader-member relationships and how the quality of workplace relationships influence flourishing in the workplace. My research, as well as others interested in relational leadership, has shown that high-quality relationships, particularly those between leaders and their followers, have a positive effect on the morale, productivity, and quality of the work produced. (Mitchell, 2016). And conversely, low-quality relationships between leaders and followers have a negative influence on morale, productivity, and quality of work. The bottom line is- high-quality relationships in the workplace are vital to individual, team, and organizational success.

Does that seem like a “no-brainer” observation? There was a time when I thought so too. But through my intensive research with followers and listening to their detailed accounts of their relationships with their leaders, I have come to the conclusion that while building relationships may seem like a common-sense responsibility of leaders- it doesn’t always happen and followers are left feeling “empty”, “desperate for connections” and longing for “soul- enriching” experiences with their leaders (Mitchell, 2016). And I am left feeling saddened, but also hopeful, that if I keep adding to the conversations about how to build high-quality and mutually enriching relationships in the workplace, the messages I spread will be acted upon and make a positive difference in individual’s lives.

With these thoughts in mind, we must take a long and hard look at ourselves as leaders and how each interaction with an employee creates within the employee positive feelings or negative feelings about the relationship. It’s like an emotional bank account and we as leaders make deposits or withdrawals into or from our employees’ emotional bank account with every interaction we have with each individual. Employees in my research raved about the leaders who “went around to every employee and said good morning”, “gave me feedback even when it wasn’t good”, “asked my opinion”, and “smiled”. Employees in my research developed negative feelings about leaders who “didn’t keep their commitments”, “told me in front of everyone on the team that she couldn’t trust me with a new assignment”, and “looked away from me and avoided eye contact with me” (Mitchell, 2016). These accounts, and others like them draw the connection between our leadership behaviors and how those behaviors have an impact on the relationships with our employees. As Schein confirms at the end of Chapter 1, “we consciously or unconsciously create relationships through the various sequences of behavior that we exhibit in different situations” (Schein, 2018). As participants in our relationships with each other, we have the power to change our behaviors that will then change the quality of the relationships. In order to do that, however, there are some important questions that we must ask ourselves:

1. Do I recognize the relationship between the behaviors I exhibit and the quality of the relationships that result from my behaviors?

2. Do I value the emotions of my employees as an integral part of their assessment of the quality of their relationship with me? (In other words, does it matter to me that my employees may have negative feelings about me?)

3. Am I willing to examine my behaviors, solicit input from my employees, and take their suggestions about how I can change in order to create more meaningful relationships with them?

Answering YES to these questions means you are on the path to becoming a HUMBLE LEADER. And one of our goals is not just to read a book about humble leadership but to actually embark on the journey of becoming one.

I am excited about the opportunity to challenge our current thoughts about who we are as leaders and take this journey of Humble Leadership. Now onto Chapter 2!!





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