The one sentence summary

Relationships, openness and trust create more powerful leadership than the old command and control method.


  • The vertical hierarchy of leadership, with its emphasis on formal, transactional relationships, professional distance, and all guidance coming from the top is hopelessly inflexible and outdated. In a complex world, leadership must rely on high levels of trust and openness throughout the organisation, and that can only be achieved through personization* and Level 2 relationships. These build agility and course correct quickly.
  • Level Minus 1 relationships involve total impersonal domination and coercion.
  • Level 1 relationships are transactional, hierarchical, distant and rule-based.
  • Level 2 relationships are intimately tied to a more personal, trusting and open culture built on personal relationships. They cannot be faked.
  • There is a full checklist of how to move from level 1 to 2.
  • Level 3 involves emotionally intimate total mutual commitments.
  • Personization* is not a typo. It’s a new concept to encapsulate the process of mutually building a working relationship with a fellow employee, teammate, boss, subordinate or colleague based on trying to see that person as a whole, not just in the role that he or she may occupy at the moment. It begins when either party asks something personal, and leads to a position where both parties have invested themselves to a considerable degree by making themselves vulnerable.


  • The backdrop to all this is that in modern leadership:
  • Task complexity is increasing exponentially.
  • The current managerial culture is myopic, has blind spots, and is often self-defeating.
  • There are generational changes in social and work values.
  • US business culture in particular suffers from competitive individualism that values the hero myth leader and the machine model of hierarchical organizations – neither of which work well.
  • Abrupt, authoritative action may seem decisive, but it often leads to an insidious substrate of fear. Trust is broken and relationships collapse.
  • Humble leadership involves moving away from heroic leadership; away from individual and transactional to relational and personal (see diagram).
  • Humble leadership can be undermined by Balkanization  – a geopolitical term for the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or uncooperative with one another. This is similar to the silo effect in business.
  • Leaders have to watch out for the Abilene Paradox – a situation when a group makes a collective decision that is counter to the thoughts and feelings of its individual members (coined by Jerry Harvey in 1974).


  • Not much. This is a helpful handbook with a lot of good advice.