Templeton.org is in English. Only a few pages are translated into other languages.


Usted está viendo Templeton.org en español. Tenga en cuenta que solamente hemos traducido algunas páginas a su idioma. El resto permanecen en inglés.


Você está vendo Templeton.org em Português. Apenas algumas páginas do site são traduzidas para o seu idioma. As páginas restantes são apenas em Inglês.


أنت تشاهد Templeton.org باللغة العربية. تتم ترجمة بعض صفحات الموقع فقط إلى لغتك. الصفحات المتبقية هي باللغة الإنجليزية فقط.

Skip to main content
Back to Templeton Ideas

In our Study of the Day feature series, we highlight a research publication related to a John Templeton Foundation-supported project, connecting the fascinating and unique research we fund to important conversations happening around the world.

In 1494 the itinerant tutor Luca Pacioli published the Summa de Arithmatica, a greatest-hits collection of Renaissance mathematics written not in Greek or Latin, but in the everyday Italian vernacular. It included sections on Hindu-Arabic numerals, basic algebra and geometry, and on business calculation. It’s the latter section that earned Luca his nickname as “the father of accounting,” popularizing the terms “debit” and “credit” in its description of double-entry bookkeeping, a ledger system that became the engine of Renaissance business — and a powerful metaphor in its own right.

Half a millennia later, the management professors Giuseppie Labianca and Daniel Brass sketched out what they called social ledger theory — suggesting that to understand the dynamics of social networks like teams, you needed to account for the effects of negative relationships (debits) as on the positive ones (credits), not least because the debit effects seemed asymmetrically strong, with many positive relationships needed to balance out the effects of a few negative ones.

Given the harsh accounting of the social ledger, then, what is a team leader to do? Recently, Chia-Yen (Chad) Chiu, of the University of South Australia, recently examined the role of humility in real-world teams, carrying out a sequence of studies to examine the real-world dynamics of dozens of professional work teams at different organizations in Taiwan. They used standardized surveys to gauge the functions of the teams, mapping the density of friendship and hindrance ties and assessing the teams’ norms of helpfulness, as well as the teams’ performance and long-term viability as rated by supervisors. They then controlled for other aspects of leadership style to focus only on the effects of humility.

What they found was that humble approaches to leadership — where leaders were rated as willing to admit when they didn’t know something, defer to their team members’ greater skills, or be open to new ideas — didn’t do much to increase positive team interactions like friendship, but had a significant effect on reducing hindrances to team function. Chiu and his colleagues suggest that this fits with the model of humility as a form of “social oil” that provides benefits by reducing friction in human interactions. 

Still Curious?

Read the article: “Shaping positive and negative ties to improve team effectiveness: The roles of leader humility and team helping norms” from the journal Human Relations