The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust

humble leadership

Humble Leadership

 

To be successful today, leaders must develop relationships based on openness and trust. Leaders can no longer rely on formal hierarchical structures and processes. Instead, the new era of leadership is based on service, on teamwork, and even on humility.

In their new book, Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, authors and organizational culture experts Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein introduce their new model of leadership based on personal relationships. I recently spoke with them to learn more about their perspective and research.

 

“Leadership is wanting to do something new and better, and getting others to go along.” -Edgar and Peter Schein

 

Traditional versus Humble

To get us started, compare and contrast traditional leadership with “humble leadership.”

We see two common myths surrounding “traditional leadership” that humble leadership calls into question. First is the heroic “I alone” myth that suggests that the greatest leaders rise to the top on their own individual brilliance. By contrast, humble leadership proposes that leadership occurs throughout an organization, at all levels and in all roles, and reaches its pinnacles of success when groups drive better decisions and achieve better outcomes.

The second myth is that organizations are machines, directed with command and control, most successful when they can be described as a “well-oiled machine.” Humble leadership proposes that this is at best an antiquated view of organizations. Instead we think of organizations as living systems capable of cooperative resource sharing and adaptation better suited to the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) world we are only now starting to accept.

 

“Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work.”

 

What do most people get wrong when they think of humble leadership?

Humble leadership is not about humility in the individual or religious sense. Humble means accepting that no individual can know more or make better decisions than any group at work. Humble means I go to work embracing the fact that I do not have all the answers and will do a better job by asking for help and helping others in the group to arrive at the best decisions. In Ed Schein’s Humble Leadership series, he refers to this framing of humility as “here and now humility.”

We see leadership as a verb not an entitlement. The foundational idea is that humble leadership requires the formation of personal relationships (at work and home) that allow two people or a group to achieve more than the sum of their individual outputs.

In Humble Consulting and Humble Leadership, a human relationship model is presented that describes human relationships in four levels. Level 1 is domination and exploitation (think prison guards or shop floor bosses in a sweatshop). Level 1 is transactional role-to-role interaction, cordial but typified by “professional distance.” Level 2 is a cooperative empathic connection between two whole persons formed by inquiring and sharing information. A Level 2 relationship is based upon, and continually reinforces, openness and trust. We refer to the process of creating Level 2 relationships as “personization.” Level 3 adds intimacy to openness and trust. This Level 3 ability to “finish each other’s sentences” is typically associated with lovers more than co-workers, though we do see Level 3 relationships in the highest performing teams (e.g. SEAL teams, orchestras, improv performers, and so on).

The essence of humble leadership is building Level 2 relationships with the people around you in order to improve and maximize information flow (openness) and cooperative work (trust). With these Level 2 relationships, anyone can arrive at work with here-and-now humility, knowing that he or she does not have all the answers, and confident that with inquiry and curiosity, better answers and outcomes will result.

 

Would you share an example of humble leadership?

How To Turn Culture Into A Productive Force

Cultivating A Winning Culture For Your Business

A strong productive culture is a superpower behind every long-lasting success. Culture demands artful management and everyday care, which seem to remain a mystery for many. How do you turn corporate culture into a productive force and secure success?

In CORPORATE SUPERPOWER: Cultivating A Winning Culture For Your Business, author Oleg Konovalov discusses what culture is, its functions and roles, why it is important and how to fix it when it goes wrong. The book offers a step-by-step guide on how to manage this incredible asset. Oleg is a management consultant with rich experience of running businesses in different industries and countries. His book is an exceptionally well-done overview of culture and how to turn it into an asset for any organization.

I spoke with Oleg about the book and his findings.

 

“Culture is a measure of success and a cause of it.” -Oleg Konovalov

 

Why do you think culture is getting so much attention these days?

We are well into the Knowledge Era, a time for new thinking about people, and appreciate that everyone has a stake in building the future. This is an era of a competition of corporate cultures, not processes.

Culture influences people’s actions, vision, minds, and hearts. In fact, an organization’s culture is its soul, and whoever controls the culture controls the soul and so, organization.

No company can move further than its employees’ competencies, where strategic development is bounded by the development of people. A successful implementation of corporate strategy directly depends on the active involvement and constant improvement of everyone.

Organizational culture is the most crucial ingredient of success, giving life to all of its many processes. Strong culture stimulates the enhancement of productivity by homogenizing the best psychological qualities of employees, the sense of unity and belonging, internal cooperation, and employees’ loyalty. Also, sustainable development depends on an organization’s ability to attract and retain the best people.

 

“Culture influences people’s actions, vision, minds, and hearts.” -Oleg Konovalov

 

Why Leaders Must Care for the Culture

Lead with Courage

Courage Way

Lead with Courage

 

Leaders must regularly reach inside and draw courage to accomplish difficult goals. Leadership is a daily practice to become your best self and help others along the way.

So explains Shelly Francis in her new book, The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity . Shelly has plenty of experience in her methods having served as the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since 2012. The Center has over 5,000 participants in their programs each year.

I recently asked Shelly to share her views on courage and leadership.

 

“People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions take courage.” -Rollo May

 

5 Types of Courage

You talk about different types of courage. Why is courage at work so vitally important?

The five types of courage I describe include physical, moral, social, creative, and collective courage. The first four were named by psychologist Rollo May in his 1974 book, The Courage to Create. Even without more detail, I bet you can begin to imagine a workplace situation calling for each type of courage.

So many hours of our days are spent in the workplace—and we want those hours to matter, and we want to find meaning and purpose in our work. That trend manifests itself in each of the types of courage described in the book.

It takes physical courage to set healthy boundaries and practices for sustaining your energy rather than succumbing to burnout and overwork. In doing so, though, you risk being seen as weak or uncommitted.

It takes moral courage to speak truth to power, like we’re seeing with people sharing their stories of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace, or reporting unfair business practices. But again, you risk losing your job, your privacy, retaliation, and so on.

It takes social courage to show up with your whole self, to risk sharing your best ideas, to risk being wrong, to be vulnerable and honest about acknowledging your limitations, or to risk asking for help (like you did in a recent blog, Skip).

It takes courage to be innovative in the commonly used sense of “creative,” the courage to risk and fail and try again. But what about the courage to create a culture where people can truly flourish? Yet again, to go against the status quo and try new ways of “being and doing” at work can be risky.

Collective courage is what we need most—people working together with integrity, commitment, and a capacity to cross lines of difference. Without such courage, we risk complex, volatile issues getting even worse. We risk missing a chance to make things better.

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

5 Ingredients of the Courage Way

10 Ways to Lead Like a Human

This is a guest post by Andy Swann. Andy is the author of The Human Workplace: People-Centred Organizational Development.  He is the founder of Simple Better Human, a creative organization development consultancy.

 

Lead Like a Human

There’s a lot of talk about the move from management to true leadership, as well as the need to be human in the face of data and the impending rise of the robots. It’s easy to get lost in it all and hard to really understand why any of it matters.

The truth is that when people thrive, our organizations thrive too, so the sole function of leadership should be to enable people to be their best and do their best work. Leaders today are the creators and custodians of platforms for human success.

Here are 10 ways every leader can contribute to the platform, enable people to thrive, drive organizational success and get more from their own role. These are inspired by research which has encountered leaders across organizations of all shapes and sizes, with common factors in success shining through.

 

Listen

Things move fast in modern business, and the people who have the greatest insight are those closest to the customer. Insight is the evidence that should drive strategy, and the faster we can access it and use it, the more plugged-in our organization is to what the world needs from it. Take time every day to talk to your people, find out how they are doing, and what issues they face. Then offer support and congratulate them on their success. In workplace change, one of the major factors that contributes to things going wrong—which happens in 70% of cases (McKinsey, 2015)—is the feeling that management isn’t listening. Give people a voice!

 

“Insight is the evidence that should drive strategy.” –Andy Swann

 

Trust

Your job as a leader is to ensure you have the right people, in the right places, doing the right things. If your recruitment process is right, then the people are right – there’s no need to micromanage every task. Trusting the individual to find their own best way to succeed, within the most basic parameters that they need to operate in, not only empowers them, but allows them to do their best work. It also reduces the workload of the leader – instead of box-ticking, you can be out there involved with your people and collecting valuable insight.

 

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” –Ernest Hemingway

 

Learn

Flip the Leadership Mind Switch and Rethink How You Lead

Flip the Switch

I’m often giving keynote speeches about the rapid-fire pace of change. From artificial intelligence to the gig economy, the world of work is changing at a record pace.

The Leadership Mind Switch is a new book by authors Debra Benton and Kylie Wright-Ford that helps leaders position themselves for the future in the midst of these changes. To keep up and succeed, you want to understand how to navigate to drive growth well into the future.

 

Rethink How We Lead

Why is it important to rethink how we lead? 

While it is always important to grow and develop as leaders, we are experiencing an historical era where tech advances married with sweeping demographic changes, plus a shift in the power base from corporations to individuals, have upended the way the future looks for work, workplaces and workers.

The sharing economy, the low marginal cost of becoming an entrepreneur and the preferences of rising generations mean that leadership behaviors of the past will fail in a quest for relevancy in our physically and digitally fused world.  Yet leaders are still using biographies of their favorite leaders from the 80s and 90s as their guides for the future.

As a Chief Operating Officer meeting hundreds of the world’s best executives, I was struck by the slow pace of change in the way we interact in the workplace relative to the pace of change in the outside world, the changing complexion of our customer bases in business and the demands of the rising generations.  Legacy thinking and iterations on past methods won’t cut it in the new world of work, yet many leaders are “nibbling at the edges” of the changes they need to implement to attract and retain talent and, frankly, to remain relevant. Free food and subsidized health memberships are not enough anymore.  Dramatic shifts in the characteristics and behaviors we value are needed to thrive going forward.

 

The Importance of Trust

The dizzying pace of change often make us believe that everything is upended, but some things have not changed for leaders. What is something that remains unchanged and just as important in terms of leadership? 

The ideal of being trusted and trustworthy has not changed over time.  It is as important now as it ever was, especially in the eyes of those impacted by less than honest leaders, but what is different now is our ability to get transparency on and take action against leaders that lie, cheat and create subversive cultures.

The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership, whether real or perceived, can often mask less than trustworthy behavior for a period of time.  However, we are entering an era where rising generations are seeking more from their leaders and their organizations.  Consumers, workers and competitors have more ability than ever to call out bad behaviors, share good behaviors and make choices.

 

“The optimism of people and yearning for strong leadership can often mask less than trustworthy behavior.”

 

I have unwavering belief in our ability as a society to sift through the noise of leaders who are untrustworthy and that we have an opportunity to set a new bar for leaders who create positive cultures, leave enduring legacies and inspire those coming behind and beside them.  We just aren’t there yet.

 

What behaviors do leaders need today that may not have been “musts” in the past?