From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Now in his 90th year, Schein is still at the cutting edge of human psychology.
This is the fifth book in his "humble" series -- co-authored with his son, Peter -- and extends the belief Schein has preached tirelessly: that we all need to be more human -- whether at work, in consulting others, when asking questions, or when seeking to support. It's an essential companion for OSH practitioners.
Being a leader is a tough gig. As humans we make mistakes. Further, information technology and the corporate globalising quest have created new ways of working which, in turn, make it much harder to define the process of leadership.
The age of the heroic leader is over. The Scheins believe we all need a dose of humility. Humble Leadership proposes a relational view, where leadership is a process (rather than an act, role or title) of learning, sharing and directing new and better things to do in the dynamic environment that is today's organisation.
The world in which we live and work is an open, sociotechnical system of changing social and business demands that we have to accept, embrace and approach with a spirit of enquiry. Humility is not a string to the leader's bow, but a critical survival skill. Leading today requires first-rate teamwork, collaboration and communication, but recent research suggests it's tricky -- trust and openness at work are on the decline.
Being a leader is a tough gig
Colourful character and strong opinion may make headlines for Elon Musk and Richard Branson but humility is an underrated leadership quality -- and one we all need to cultivate. The authors posit that we must strive to "personise" our relationships with those around us. Not personalise, this is a new word, meaning to be more human -- building real connections by revealing something about ourselves, or asking something personal of others: with authenticity, appropriate vulnerability, and sincerity.
It may seem trite to say that relationships can be designed and evolved, but the more work requires collaboration, open communication and trust in commitment, the more personisation is essential. Never more so than when it comes to matters of workplace safety. We must do away with the pseudo-tech speak of acronym and abbreviation, or rite and rule, and instead become more human.
The book is peppered with anecdotes from the Scheins' personal experiences and packed with case studies that illustrate the impact of personising your leadership approach. In fewer than 150 pages it provides a gripping and provocative guide to adapting your leadership style to something much more human. It's time to put people at the heart of safety and health, with a significant measure of humble leadership.
Writers in OSH publications – this one excepted – often start articles with aggregated figures on the billions a type of accident or illness costs the UK, European or even world economy.However immediately impressive they are, these telephone number totals demand a leap of imagination (or some quick-footed mental arithmetic) to work out their local implications. Better to save your audience the trouble.
It’s a book about change – changing yourself to become more effective in every area of your life.The first habit is to be proactive. Covey reminds us we are responsible for our own lives; the most effective people take control and responsibility for their actions. Don’t wait for someone to deliver success to you.
The macho, show-no-weakness images boys are surrounded by as they grow up do little to encourage them to open up about their mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, women are more likely to have been treated for mental health problems, but “this reflects women’s greater willingness to acknowledge that they are troubled and then get support”.
The session was based on what are seen as the traditional career paths for safety professionals: adviser, to manager, to group level manager, to head of, and lastly director. But what I wanted our audience to consider was, why stop there?I started by getting us thinking about the average FTSE 100 company chief executive, a 46-year-old white male, who attended Oxford or Cambridge and has a degree in economics, law or business.
That is partly because, disasters aside, business leaders are not judged on their OSH performance. Their pay rises and upward moves are almost all determined by cost control and maximising profits.We often argue in these pages that OSH practitioners can do more to raise the profile of their discipline and persuade their employers to take them and their risk management skills more seriously. That’s true but, given the structural factors working against them, the profession’s cause could use some bolstering from outside.
The “bonkers conkers” story – arguably the most pervasive and, for the status of OSH practitioners, damaging safety myth in the UK – originated in a school playground. The legend that a head teacher insisted children wear safety goggles when playing the autumnal game had little grounding in reality. But it drew attention to a more important question about how we manage students’ earliest experiences of safety and health management.