Elected Member Leadership Fourm – Strategic Thinking as Strategic Seeing (17 Feb 2020)

Last November the Local Government Association (LGA) invited me to deliver a talk about leader humility and shared leadership for SA mayors. After the talk, one of the mayors suggested LGA host another leadership development forum for their council members. Consequently, I am invited to make the presentation again for the elected council members. We have a great conversation about how to become an influential and effective leader

Culturally Diverse Teams: Risks and Rewards

Published on the UniSA Business Magazine, August 2017

WRITERS: Cheri Ostroff and Chia-Yen (Chad) Chiu

Teams are a core building block for organisations. When executed well, they allow individual members to contribute their unique knowledge and skills, so that when combined, better performance, quality, creativity, innovation and customer service results. This can be especially true for culturally diverse teams; their resource base is stronger, and they can draw upon a greater repertoire of responses, perspectives and expertise. Social capital–or the ability to connect with and gain knowledge from people external to the team–is also greater. All of which should lead to superior team performance in diverse teams. Yet, they often fall short. And herein lies the paradox–people prefer similarity.

From decades of research in management, psychology and sociology, we know that individuals who work with people from a similar background, culture or ethnicity have more positive attitudes and behaviours at work, and are less likely to quit. Individuals are attracted to those they see as similar to themselves. They prefer to join groups of similar others and are more likely to interact with them. One reason for this is characteristics such as race or ethnicity are automatically categorised in the mind and influence how individuals react and interact with one another, evoking conscious or subconscious stereotypes, biases and judgments. Those from different cultural backgrounds are categorised as ‘outsiders’ while similar others are categorised as ‘insiders’ and consequently perceived to be easier to communicate with.

When individuals work in a team comprising similar others, they tend to feel a greater sense of psychological safety, exhibit greater satisfaction and loyalty, and have a stronger desire to remain in the team than individuals working in diverse teams. In contrast, racial or ethnic differences among team members can result in disintegration, lack of cohesion, interpersonal or task conflicts, as well as reduced morale. That’s why achieving the promise of superior performance outcomes in culturally diverse teams can be challenging. Similarity is good for individuals. Diverse teams can be good for organisations. So, how can we overcome the potential conflict and communication problems to reap the benefits of diversity, and still have individual members who are satisfied and committed?

See the full text at http://www.unisabusinessschool.edu.au/magazine/10/culturally-diverse-teams/


Supervisor Humility and Shared Leadership Build Better Teams

Shared Leadership in Teams

Many researchers and practitioners have suggested that leadership is critical for improving team performance. Traditionally, we believe that the source of team leadership solely comes from the hierarchical leader, the one who is granted with formal authority such as team supervisor or manager. However, due to the increasing task complexity and difficulty of modern work teams, the formally assigned leader may not able to fulfill all the required leadership functions. Particularly when they must rely heavily on knowledge sharing and learning to respond to unpredictable and continuously changing circumstances, teams need highly skilled and knowledgeable members who can exert a collective influence to take advantage of the variety of internal resources, information, and skills that these members can bring to the team. This participative leadership is called “shared leadership”, a group-based working structure generated from reciprocal reliance and shared influence among team members so as to achieve team goals. In a team with a high level of shared leadership, every one can take the lead when the team needs him/her, and every one has his/her unique contribution to the team outcomes.

Supervisor’s Humility and Shared Leadership 

But how to encourage shared leadership?

One of my recent studies is about how team supervisors improve shared leadership in teams. The answer is simple, these managers should express their humility. By definition, humble leaders are those who are willing to publicly admit their mistakes, recognize the expertise of others, and then learn from their followers. With the displayed humility, team leaders are able to signal that proactively providing contributions and taking lead are encouraged in their team, which improve members’ willingness to engage in leadership functions as well as shared leadership. Using a sample composed by  62 professional work teams in Taiwan, my co-authors and I find that leader humility can improve shared leadership by encouraging team members to spontaneously lead and follow their peers, and the elevated level of shared leadership can eventually improve team task performance.

Be Careful about Displaying Humility when Promoting Shared Leadership

However, humility may not be always effective for enhancing shared leadership. Based on the result of interaction analysis, humble leaders improve shared leadership only when the followers sore a high proactive personality . As humility is a less dominant form of leadership that provides more flexibility and freedom for followers to invest their contributions in teams, it should be compatible with followers who are more self-initiating, expressive, and proactive. Moreover, team shared leadership have a stronger effect on team outcomes when the team is staffed with highly competent individuals. When members have high levels of expertise and competence to offer the team, the cohesive network structure of shared leadership should effectively channel their influence where and when it is most needed, thereby strengthening the relationship between shared leadership and team performance.

Research Contributions and Implications

The contribution of this study could be multiple-fold. First,  We provide suggestions for formal team leaders to build shared leadership in their teams. Specifically, to help team members to build mutual reliance, formal team leaders can demonstrate humble behaviors by publicly praising followers and showing a high willingness to learn from others. Second, we suggest that when leaders seek to build shared leadership in teams, in addition to displaying humility, they should assess the level of proactivity that exists within the team or select for proactivity when compiling a team’s membership. Moreover, team members’ performance capability or task competence could alter the effectiveness of shared leadership. We recommend that organizations conduct proper training programs for employees to enhance their general job competence before or in conjunction with efforts to develop shared leadership within their teams.

Other Comments on Shared Leadership

My coauthor Professor Paul Tesluk also makes a two-minute video about our research. Please see Shared leadership builds better teams


Chiu, C., Owens, B.*, & Tesluk, P.* (2016). Initiating and utilizing shared leadership in teams: The role of leader humility, team proactive personality, and team performance capability. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, p. 1705-1720 (A* Journal on the ABDC list)(*The two authors contribute equally)

How Can Managers Become Leaders?

From I/O at Work: http://www.ioatwork.com/managers-can-become-leaders/

Reviewed by Ashlyn Patterson

It is easier said than done, but managers can become leaders. First, imagine you’re a newly appointed manager who has some decision making power and a few direct reports. Although your role as a manager brings with it formal authority, you don’t really feel like a leader yet. What can you do to be seen as more of a leader? What are the important qualities that transform a manager into a leader? Researchers (Chiu, Balkundi, & Weinberg, 2016) recently discovered the role of social networks in determining whether or not managers were perceived as leaders.


Although everyone has a slightly different idea of what makes a great leader, two fairly consistent qualities emerge. In order to be seen as a leader, employees need opportunities to see their manager as both competent and supportive. According to the research, having a large positive social network (i.e., friendship or advice ties) creates more opportunities for employees to approach their manager for task-related support. This provides managers the opportunity to demonstrate competence. A larger social network also allows for more frequent employee-manager interactions and displays of supportiveness.

Building a positive social network alone is not enough. Managers must also be aware of reducing their negative social network (i.e., avoidance or hindrance ties) at the same time. Managers with negative social ties are excluded, more socially ostracized by others, and lack opportunities to showcase any positive leadership qualities. As a result, employees may either ignore or misinterpret a manager’s showing of competence or supportiveness.


Social networks are also important because of the potential power they bring. A big difference between a manager and a leader is the type of power they have over others. Managers have formal power given to them by the organization. They have the ability to reward others, command compliance, and penalize noncompliance. In contrast, leaders also have power derived from being seen as competent (called expert power) and likeable (called referent power). These two types of power are more informal and given to leaders by their followers, and not by the organization.

So how is everything connected? The researchers found that managers who have a large positive social network (and a small negative network) end up having more expert and referent power. Managers with both referent and expert power are more likely to be viewed as leaders in the organization.


Leaders derive their influence from both expert and referent power. Both of these are forms of power given to leaders by their followers rather than by the organization itself. In contrast, managers rely more on formal power to reward and punish employees. It is important for managers to understanding the type of power they are relying on when trying to influence others.

Managers who want to become leaders need to foster their social networks and generate positive social ties while reducing negative social ties. Generating opportunities to show followers that they are competent and supportive is the first step to building both expert and referent power. Although managers may know they are competent and supportive, they need their followers to see it too. As the researchers conclude, “Managers are appointed by the organization, but leaders are anointed by their followers.”


Chiu, C., Balkundi, P., & Weinberg, F. (in press). When managers become leaders: The roles of manager network centralities, social power, and followers’ perception of leadership. Leadership Quarterly.

People feel less stressful at work than at home.


Ha, this is interesting. Conventionally we believe that people feel more comfortable and less stressful at home than at the work place. However, according to a recent research finding from Penn State University, participants report a lower level of stress (measured by the level of cortisol, a hormone released in responses to stress) when they are at office than at home, and this finding is consistent across their gender and marital status.

Possible explanations include: people feel valued at work (i.e., get paid or draw attentions from others); it is easier to say no toward colleagues than family; employees can temporally escape from their stress sources in office (i.e., go to buy a cup of coffee) but they cannot do so at home, especially for parents.

The research finding also shows that employees who earn more than $75,000 a year report the same stress level at work as at home. These people with high income are always stressful anyway.

The study only aims at the employees with regular working hours (from 6am to 7pm). I was wondering the research finding is significant only for those who work about or less than 8 hours a day. In many Asian countries (i.e, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan), it is very common to have long working hours(http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18144319), and the workplace is FOR SURE the major source of stress for employees. I guess it is not surprising to find that employees in Taiwan, for instance, to have a lower stress level at home than at work, as they usually spend more than 10 hours per day at their offices (and the working efficiency and outcomes are not superior).

Apparently, we have different opinions about work-life balance?