Organisational Culture and Leadership

Reviewed by: 
Edgar H. Schein
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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Organisational Culture and Leadership is a comprehensive, although rather academic, study of culture and leadership and of the complex relationship between the two.  Since culture is one of those terms that frequently used but rarely defined, it is helpful that Schein devotes more than half the book to dissecting culture in great detail.  On a positive note, I found this section of the book particularly helpful and quite thought provoking, although it is rather philosophical at times.

Having defined what he mans by ‘culture’, Schein moves on to describing its development and its various levels.  He explores and considers the nature of time, space and humanity as a way of explaining why people in organisations act and think the way they do. He goes on to discuss methods of assessing and characterising culture. 

Schein frequently refers to the types of challenges a consultant might encounter when working in different organisations.  Not only does this help explain of the impact of cultural differences, but it will be particularly helpful to people considering mergers or acquisitions or a move to another organisation.

The rest of the book is specifically about leadership as it relates to culture – how leaders influence, and often create, a company’s culture, the way companies grow and change, and how leaders can and should achieve planned changes.

Three chapters are devoted to the specifics of planned change: the necessity of conceptual changes, unfreezing and refreezing the culture, reducing anxiety and making employees feel safe, coping with the complexity involved in cultural shifts.  The final chapter deals with ‘the learning culture and the learning leader’.

The book is not an easy read; it is rather academic and rather philosophical but it is a fascinating book for anyone interested in the subject.  It is also a book that I would strongly recommend to any CEO or senior executive and to any senior person who is in the process of moving between companies.

Had the book been easier to read, I would certainly have awarded it a 4 or even 5-star rating.  But the effort required of the reader makes the book less accessible than might otherwise be the case.

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