Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-cf9d5c678-h2mp8 Total loading time: 0.203 Render date: 2021-08-02T00:55:53.818Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Shaping the shared mental model: How leader humility helps teams to learn

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 June 2017

Mingze Li
School of Management, Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan, Hubei, China
Pengcheng Zhang
School of Management, Huazhong University of Science & Technology, Wuhan, Hubei, China
Ying Xia
School of Management, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China
Wenxing Liu
School of Business Administration, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan, Hubei, China
E-mail address:


Although an increasing amount of the leadership literature argues that leader humility is beneficial to team learning, few studies have examined this effect directly and, as such, little is known about why leader humility has such important effects or when these effects can be amplified or attenuated. Utilizing a survey of 305 employees on 89 teams, we found a positive relationship existing between leader humility and team learning. The results also indicated that a shared mental model was an important mechanism revealing why leader humility could stimulate team members to learn. In addition, we found that the learning effect stimulated by leader humility was much stronger on teams having a high collective promotion focus instead of a high collective prevention focus. Theoretical implications and managerial practices were also discussed.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press and Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Beersma, B., Homan, A. C., Van Kleef, G. A., & De Dreu, C. K. (2013). Outcome interdependence shapes the effects of prevention focus on team processes and performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 121(2), 194203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bucic, T., Robinson, L., & Ramburuth, P. (2010). Effects of leadership style on team learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 22(4), 228248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cannon-Bowers, J. A., Salas, E., & Converse, S. A. (1990). Cognitive psychology and team training: Training shared mental models and complex systems. Human Factors Society Bulletin, 33(12), 14.Google Scholar
Conger, J. A., & Kanungo, R. N. (1988). The empowerment process: Integrating theory and practice. Academy of Management Review, 13(3), 471482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Conway, J. M., & Lance, C. E. (2010). What reviewers should expect from authors regarding common method bias in organizational research. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(3), 325334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davis, D. E., Hook, J. N., WorthingtonJr, E. L. Jr, E. L., Van Tongeren, D. R., Gartner, A. L., Jennings, D. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2011). Relational humility: Conceptualizing and measuring humility as a personality judgment. Journal of Personality Assessment, 93(3), 225234.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
DeChurch, L. A., & Mesmer-Magnus, J. R. (2010). The cognitive underpinnings of effective teamwork: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 3253.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
DelliFraine, J., Menachemi, N., Zoller, J., & Lemak, C. H. (2016). Leadership characteristics of academic administrators in health administration: A brief report. Journal of Health Administration Education, 33(2), 321332.Google Scholar
Denzau, A. T., & North, D. C. (1994). Shared mental models: Ideologies and institutions. Kyklos, 47(1), 331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dimotakis, N., Davison, R. B., & Hollenbeck, J. R. (2012). Team structure and regulatory focus: The impact of regulatory fit on team dynamic. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(2), 421434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dionne, S. D., Sayama, H., Hao, C., & Bush, B. J. (2010). The role of leadership in shared mental model convergence and team performance improvement: An agent-based computational model. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(6), 10351049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dirks, K. T. (2000). Trust in leadership and team performance: Evidence from NCAA basketball. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(6), 10041012.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dutton, J. E., Roberts, L. M., & Bednar, J. (2010). Pathways for positive identity construction at work: Four types of positive identity and the building of social resources. Academy of Management Review, 35(2), 265293.Google Scholar
Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edmondson, A. C. (2003). Speaking up in the operating room: How team leaders promote learning in interdisciplinary action teams. Journal of Management Studies, 40(6), 14191452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edmondson, A. C. (2008). The competitive imperative of learning. Harvard Business Review, 86(7/8), 6067.Google Scholar
Edmondson, A. C., Bohmer, R. M., & Pisano, G. P. (2001). Disrupted routines: Team learning and new technology implementation in hospitals. Administrative Science Quarterly, 46(4), 685716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Edmondson, A. C., Dillon, J. R., & Roloff, K. S. (2007). Three perspectives on team learning: Outcome improvement, task mastery, and group process. The Academy of Management Annals, 1(1), 269314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
García-Morales, V. J., Jiménez-Barrionuevo, M. M., & Gutiérrez-Gutiérrez, L. (2012). Transformational leadership influence on organizational performance through organizational learning and innovation. Journal of Business Research, 65(7), 10401050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibson, C., & Vermeulen, F. (2003). A healthy divide: Subgroups as a stimulus for team learning behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48(2), 202239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gino, F., Argote, L., Miron-Spektor, E., & Todorova, G. (2010). First, get your feet wet: The effects of learning from direct and indirect experience on team creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 111(2), 102115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Greer, T. W. (2013). Humility isn’t just personal anymore: Testing group-level humility in the organization. PhD. Regent University, Virginia, USA.Google Scholar
Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52(12), 12801300.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Higgins, E. T. (1998). Promotion and prevention: Regulatory focus as a motivational principle. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 30, 146.Google Scholar
Higgins, E. T., Friedman, R. S., Harlow, R. E., Idson, L. C., Ayduk, O. N., & Taylor, A. (2001). Achievement orientations from subjective histories of success: Promotion pride versus prevention pride. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31(1), 323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hofmann, D. A., Morgeson, F. P., & Gerras, S. J. (2003). Climate as a moderator of the relationship between leader-member exchange and content specific citizenship: Safety climate as an exemplar. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(1), 170178.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Huselid, M. A., Jackson, S. E., & Schuler, R. S. (1997). Technical and strategic human resources management effectiveness as determinants of firm performance. Academy of Management Journal, 40(1), 171188.Google Scholar
Imai, L. (2012). Promotion-focused and prevention-focused? Regulatory focus ambidexterity and its effects on team processes and outcomes. PhD. University of Maryland, College Park, MD.Google Scholar
Johnson, T. E., Lee, Y., Lee, M., O’Connor, D. L., Khalil, M. K., & Huang, X. (2007). Measuring sharedness of team-related knowledge: Design and validation of a shared mental model instrument. Human Resource Development International, 10(4), 437454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Judge, T. A., & Hulin, C. L. (1993). Job satisfaction as a reflection of disposition: A multiple source causal analysis. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 56(3), 388421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kasl, E., Marsick, V. J., & Dechant, K. (1997). Teams as learners a research-based model of team learning. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 33(2), 227246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kellermanns, F. W., Floyd, S. W., Pearson, A. W., & Spencer, B. (2008). The contingent effect of constructive confrontation on the relationship between shared mental models and decision quality. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29(1), 119137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kirkman, B. L., Rosen, B., Tesluk, P. E., & Gibson, C. B. (2004). The impact of team empowerment on virtual team performance: The moderating role of face-to-face interaction. Academy of Management Journal, 47(2), 175192.Google Scholar
Klimoski, R., & Mohammed, S. (1994). Team mental model: Construct or metaphor? Journal of Management, 20(2), 403437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Langan-Fox, J., Wirth, A., Code, S., Langfield-Smith, K., & Wirth, A. (2001). Analyzing shared and team mental models. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 28(2), 99112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Li, M. Z., & Zhang, P. C. (2016). Stimulating learning by empowering leadership: Can we achieve cross-level creativity simultaneously? Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 37(8), 11681186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lockwood, P., Jordan, C. H., & Kunda, Z. (2002). Motivation by positive or negative role models: Regulatory focus determines who will best inspire us. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(4), 854864.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Magjuka, R. J., & Baldwin, T. T. (1991). Team‐based employee involvement programs: Effects of design and administration. Personnel Psychology, 44(4), 793812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mathieu, J. E., Heffner, T. S., Goodwin, G. F., Salas, E., & Cannon-Bowers, J. A. (2000). The influence of shared mental models on team process and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(2), 273283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Means, J. R., Wilson, G. L., Sturm, C., Biron, J. E., & Bach, P. J. (1990). Humility as a psychotherapeutic formulation. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 3(2), 211215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McComb, S. A. (2007). Mental model convergence: The shift from being an individual to being a team member. Multi-Level Issues in Organizations and Time, 6, 83147.Google Scholar
Mohammed, S., Klimoski, R., & Rentsch, J. R. (2000). The measurement of team mental models: We have no shared schema. Organizational Research Methods, 3(2), 123165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morris, J. A., Brotheridge, C. M., & Urbanski, J. C. (2005). Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility. Human Relations, 58(10), 13231350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moss, S. (2009). Cultivating the regulatory focus of followers to amplify their sensitivity to transformational leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 15(3), 241259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neter, J., Wasserman, W., & Kutner, M. H. (1990). Multicolinearity diagnostics-Variance inflation factor. In Applied linear statistical models, (3rd ed., pp. 407411). Boston, MA: Irwin.Google Scholar
Nielsen, R., Marrone, J. A., & Slay, H. S. (2010). A new look at humility: Exploring the humility concept and its role in socialized charismatic leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 17(1), 3343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ouschan, L., Boldero, J. M., Kashima, Y., Wakimoto, R., & Kashima, E. S. (2007). Regulatory focus strategies scale: A measure of individual differences in the endorsement of regulatory strategies. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 10(4), 243257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ou, A. Y., Tsui, A. S., Kinicki, A. J., Waldman, D. A., Xiao, Z., & Song, L. J. (2014). Humble chief executive officers’ connections to top management team integration and middle managers’ responses. Administrative Science Quarterly, 59(1), 3472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Owens, B. P., & Hekman, D. R. (2012). Modeling how to grow: An inductive examination of humble leader behaviors, contingencies, and outcomes. Academy of Management Journal, 55(4), 787818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Owens, B. P., & Hekman, D. R. (2016). How does leader humility influence team performance? Exploring the mechanisms of contagion and collective promotion focus. Academy of Management Journal, 59(3), 10881111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Owens, B. P., Johnson, M. D., & Mitchell, T. R. (2013). Expressed humility in organizations: Implications for performance, teams, and leadership. Organization Science, 24(5), 15171538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Owens, B. P., Rowatt, W. C., & Wilkins, A. L. (2011). Exploring the relevance and implications of humility in organizations. In K. S. Cameron, & G. S. Spreitzer (Eds.), Handbook of positive organizational scholarship (pp. 260272). Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Owens, B. P., Wallace, A. S., & Waldman, D. A. (2015). Leader narcissism and follower outcomes: The counterbalancing effect of leader humility. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(4), 12031213.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879903.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Reave, L. (2005). Spiritual values and practices related to leadership effectiveness. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(5), 655687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rietzschel, E. F. (2011). Collective regulatory focus predicts specific aspects of team innovation. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(3), 337345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rowatt, W. C., Powers, C., Targhetta, V., Comer, J., Kennedy, S., & Labouff, J. (2006). Development and initial validation of an implicit measure of humility relative to arrogance. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(4), 198211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sarin, S., & McDermott, C. (2003). The effect of team leader characteristics on learning, knowledge application, and performance of cross‐functional new product development teams. Decision Sciences, 34(4), 707739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Savelsbergh, C. M., Poell, R. F., & van der Heijden, B. I. (2015). Does team stability mediate the relationship between leadership and team learning? An empirical study among Dutch project teams. International Journal of Project Management, 33(2), 406418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith-Jentsch, K. A., Mathieu, J. E., & Kraiger, K. (2005). Investigating linear and interactive effects of shared mental models on safety and efficiency in a field setting. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(3), 523535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Somech, A. (2003). Relationships of participative leadership with relational demography variables: A multi‐level perspective. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24(8), 10031018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Srivastava, A., Bartol, K. M., & Locke, E. A. (2006). Empowering leadership in management teams: Effects on knowledge sharing, efficacy, and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 49(6), 12391251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tangney, J. P. (2000). Humility: Theoretical perspectives, empirical findings and directions for future research. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19(1), 7083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van den Bossche, P., Gijselaers, W., Segers, M., Woltjer, G., & Kirschner, P. (2011). Team learning: Building shared mental models. Instructional Science, 39(3), 283301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Dierendonck, D. (2011). Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 37(4), 12281261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vera, D., & Rodriguez-Lopez, A. (2004). Strategic virtues: Humility as a source of competitive advantage. Organizational Dynamics, 33(4), 393408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, P., & Rode, J. C. (2010). Transformational leadership and follower creativity: The moderating effects of identification with leader and organizational climate. Human Relations, 63(8), 11051128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wong, S. S. (2004). Distal and local group learning: Performance trade-offs and tensions. Organization Science, 15(6), 645656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yukl, G., & Van Fleet, D. D. (1992). Theory and research on leadership in organizations. In M. D. Dunnette, & L. M. Hough (Eds.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 147197). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Shaping the shared mental model: How leader humility helps teams to learn
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Shaping the shared mental model: How leader humility helps teams to learn
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Shaping the shared mental model: How leader humility helps teams to learn
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *