Edgar and Peter Schein on Humble Leadership
When Edgar Schein said*, “The essence of humility is not interpersonal,” my brain lit up.
Ed and Peter explained that they aren’t focusing on humility in relation to other people. As I considered ‘comparative humility’, the idea of being superior or inferior came to mind.
Comparing yourself with a superior puts you in an inferior position. This makes being humble difficult to pursue and develop. You would not intentionally pursue being inferior.
‘Here and now’ humility:
“The essence of humility is what I call ‘here and now’ humility in the face of a task that is defeating me in the sense that I don’t know exactly what to do next. … I need to ask some questions. I need the help of the people around me.” Edgar Schein
‘Here and now’ humility requires the ability to evaluate current challenges and consider how available resources and skills are able to meet/not meet those challenges. The idea being that most of the time you come up short.
“Most of the time we don’t know enough to know what to do next.” Edgar Schein
Humility and lack of knowledge:
Peter Schein added, “You know that when you go into a meeting that there are other people in the room that know a lot of things that you don’t know.”
In other words, it’s humble to consider and acknowledge another person’s expertise. You aren’t trying to be humble. You are humble.
Peter said, “In the moment humility is critical to information exchange.”
Heroic leadership is the opposite of humble leadership.
Humility … “Assumes I need the people around me. This is a collective process. This is a personal process. It’s not a transactional process… I alone cannot solve this problem.” Peter Schein
What factors make leaders humble?
Join me today at 1:05 p.m. for a Facebook Live conversation with Ed and Peter Schein on humble leadership.
I won’t be able to attend the conversation today, but I would be interested to know how heroic leadership is defined by Ed and Peter Schein or even yourself. For myself I would include humbleness as a critical part of heroic leadership and therefore not consider it as opposite.
Thanks for your question John. The hero who rides in on a white horse to save the day is the idea that Ed and Peter are pushing back on.
In one sense, many leaders are heroic. They have heroic character. They sacrifice for others. We could all aspire to be that kind of hero.
You will be able to view the video on facebook after the live conversation.
Thanks again for your question.
I continue to appreciate your emphasis on humility. Humility is a way of being that can be nurtured and that allows us—allows me—to truly be my best self while benefitting from others being their best selves—all for a greater good. Thanks for keeping “humility” in front of us, Dan.
Well put, Ken! I really enjoy how you tie being our best selves and how others can be their best selves. Humility makes space for others AND pursues improvement itself. 🙂
Fabulous view, we need to keep ourselves on course with all individuals that surround us, knowing our expertise as well as theirs, when it comes to limitations and expectations, encourage ourselves to get the most or give the most from whatever we are involved in. .
Humility to me includes all the things you have mentioned, the strength to admit you don’t know all the answers, and the ability to say you are wrong. A leader has to have that kind of inner strength to admit they were wrong, the people you work with will respect that more than making stuff up. Insecure leaders will not admit they are wrong and will play the blame game.
Great thoughts thank you.
Well said by all…Courageous might be another word to include as a key component in context of the heroic quality of humility as defined by these thought leaders of our time. It takes courageous humility, perhaps, to support the inner strength and confidence to strategically utilize the the resources around us without feeling diminished by the expectations we have of ourselves to be all-knowing.