Book Review: Organisational Culture and Leadership

Georges Lteif

Georges Lteif

Software Engineer

Last Updated on December 29, 2022.
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5 min read

Who Should Read This Book

If your job hinges on understanding and navigating a complex culture and group behaviour, and you want to achieve Operational Excellence, this is the book for you.


In this publication, Professor Edgar Schein expands on his original 1999 paper on Organisational Culture into a fascinating book. The latter discusses the emergence, dynamics, and transformation of Organisational Culture and how it brings about the organization’s behaviour, evolution, and survival.

The book has 5 editions. The present review discusses the 3rd edition.

The book is regarded as one of the most influential book on business management and organisational culture.

Culture is a very abstract thing and Schein’s monumental work was to turn it into something tangible, measurable, and decipherable.

The book has 19 chapters divided into three parts:

  • Part 1: Organisational Culture and Leadership Defined
  • Part 2: The Dimensions of Culture
  • Part 3: The Leadership Role in Culture Building, Embedding, and Evolving

Part one discusses the emergence of culture in a group, its tangible and observable aspects, and two case examples of different cultures to illustrate the way cultures guide the behaviour of organizations.

The second part of the book breaks down the creational forces of an organization’s culture: the internal integration pressures and the external adaptions ones. This part, in my opinion, was the most interesting as it explains the forces behind the emergence and shaping of organisational culture.

The third and final part talks about leadership and its influence on the direction that a culture takes, from emergence to transmission and all the way through transformation and change.

Chapter 18 is particularly interesting as it presents a case study of a major organization going through a cultural transformation.

Key Metrics

Original Content
Practical Usage
Writing Style

Quick Review

Highly Recommended


The book is nicely broken down into 3 parts and 19 chapters that are well structured and easy to follow, with each chapter focused on a different aspect of organisational culture.


The author’s style flows effortlessly, despite the academic nature of the subject and its presentation. It is very enjoyable to read especially for readers who are new to the topic.


The author is a former professor at MIT and has published many papers on organisational development and culture. His writings derive heavily from his own research and are highly original.


Edition Details

Hardcover available

Audio CD | Audible

ISBN-13: 9780787968458
ISBN-10: 0787968455
17.53 x 2.54 x 23.37 cm
437 pages


  • Management Styles
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Group Formation
  • Group Behaviour
  • Philosophical Aspects of Group Interactions
  • Human Systems
  • Organisational Learning



The book is divided into 3 parts and 19 chapters. The structure of the book is clear and although the reader has to read the whole book before forming the big picture. This is not uncommon in such complex topics that need a lot of untangling.

Original Content

Although primarily based on the 1990 paper by the author on Organisational Culture, this book heavily relies on a lot of research literature on Organisational Development. Some chapters also derive from real-world projects where the author actively participated and guided his clients through cultural transformations. The book contains the insights that the were gathered from those researches and projects and in this sense, its content is highly original.

General Tone

The general tone of the book varies between lively academic lecturing and recital of success stories in a very engaging manner.

Practical Usage

This book is a MUST-READ for anybody who is on the business management side of the organisation and who has not had a formal training in business management but would like a condensed, yet enjoyable introduction. Most of the material presented in the book is based on the author’s own research as well as his actual projects with his clients. They are perfect examples of typical work scenarios and can be a great source of practical insights.


The author provides an in-depth analysis of the psychological, behavioural, and cognitive aspects of organisational culture. Although not quite a textbook, its thoroughness is more than adequate and this is not only due to the author’s fluency in the topic but also to his style of writing which is condensed yet very accessible. Upon finishing the book, the reader will be left with a feeling of satisfaction in terms of breadth and depth of coverage of the topic.
In fact, the book discusses the lifecycle of organisational culture, its different manifestations in the office, the people, and their behaviour, its impact on the future of the organization and finally the role of leadership all around.


The author spent his career in research as well as helping organizations overcome any culture obstacles in their lifetime. His books and thoughts carry great influence in the field.



The book can be classified under general interests, business management.

Writing Style

The author’s writing style is clear and concise albeit sometimes a bit dense. Having said that, I had no problem following the chain of thoughts at all times. At some points, it might have felt like a recital of summaries from the literature but that is rare enough to keep the book thoroughly enjoyable.


The book is highly accessible with some technical jargon. It does not assume prior familiarity with advanced psychological or business management concepts and the real-world examples provided throughout the book went a long way in illustrating the theory. The author did a great job in that area.



From LinkedIn:

Edgar Henry Schein (born March 5, 1928), a former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has made a notable mark on the field of organisational development in many areas, including career development, group process consultation, and organisational culture. He is the son of former University of Chicago professor Marcel Schein.


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