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Humane Leadership Ideas Build Young Leaders

Humane Leadership is on the move again.

The core ideas of Humane Leadership – continuous performance innovation in the self leadership lab, internalizing and applying new mental models with Wisdom Jigs, and professional self and project leadership skills – have found there way into some fascinating places over the past few years.

One of the most exciting places is in the Local Innovation Lab, a highly impactful internship experience meeting important community needs in partnership with Southern Oregon University. To support the interns, we created a 10-week online course including live online workshops that uses project-based learning to develop student project and self leadership skills. Empowering young people with professional level skills creates the next generation of leaders who know how maximize effectiveness and humanity at once.

The program has helped city governments, local community groups, and businesses recover from the 2020 Labor Day fires in Southern Oregon while giving students valuable experiences that bridged into full time work for nearly 40% of the first cohort.

The approach of the course has been so successful SOU has formed an innovation community of leading professors to look at how the core ideas and practices of the course might be worked more deeply into courses across the university and beyond potentially as an Open Educational Resource.

From the very beginning we had three questions, we’ve answered the first two; What would humane leadership look like? Is it learnable? See the book for our answers to these questions. Now, we are on to question three, if humane leadership works and is learnable, then how might we make it that new norm?

Today, we continue to look for innovative ways to empower emergent leaders with the skills they need to empower themselves.

As all this goes on, I continue to be our lead researcher, pushing out towards the edges of self and community leadership in search of insights that will empower a more humane collective future.

Of course, we’ve also been busy sharing the power of Humane Leadership in more traditional settings, including:

  • Training workshops for a variety of groups including corporate learning professionals via Executive Learning Exchange, the Pacific Northwest Organizational Development Network, Film Festival Alliance, Firebrand’s Zone Captains, and Stanford Children’s Hospital.
  • Leadership support work for a variety of community, educational, and business leaders – leadership support includes traditional coaching as well as extra support in areas where capacity is constrained.

Thank you for supporting our work.

Please reach out if you have any questions or ideas you’d like to discuss.

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With all its banal indignities,

Rewards my patience,
With sun splattering snow peaks,
Above misted valley homes,
The Alps at my feet,

When the seal is broken at the end of the journey,
The elevator opens on a new city,
The manifested promise of order and power,
Of our best foresight and engineering,

And of my hope of being freed from where I was,
Into the possibility of where I’m going,
Again, again, stepping, rolling, flying towards hope,

As if hope and its promises might, this time, be real.

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Idealism, Leadership, and Self Violence

Does our idealism lead us to over commit to real needs, important opportunities, and noble callings?

There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

— Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander


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Ashland Works Update July 3, 2020


Ashland Works – Projects to support economic recovery in Ashland. 

  • Ashland Works 501c3 formation to support local innovation, education, and job creation.
  • Incubator to develop and attract startups in software, green technology, and light manufacturing. Working with SOU, interns, and volunteers to develop this program.
  • Revisioning Ashland community conversations – hosted by the Ashland Food Coop and planning to expand to the greater community in the coming days.
  • Community Investment Fund – to allow local investors to support development of ideas and social/commercial enterprises to meet local needs and create good local jobs.
  • Mountain Bike Summit – to accelerate mountain biking as a form of recreation and economic development

We decided to take these actions after orienting ourselves in conversation with our community based on the observations below.

ORIENTATION – How we see the situation

  • Economic disruption is likely to be long and damaging to Ashland’s current businesses.  So, job creation will become vital for the health of our community.
  • Economic development should be focused on a shared vision for Ashland’s traditional qualities and possible futures.
  • State, county and city governments are unlikely to have the funds or bandwidth to create the solutions we need.
  • Return to prior economic levels is likely to take years according to government and private studies.


  • Public health locally is manageable, but Covid cases in Jackson County and across the state are accelerating.
  • Nationally, infection rates are accelerating and opening is being rolled back in many states.
  • Millions have returned to work nationally, but many more millions remain unemployed.
  • State, county and city government budget shortfalls are just becoming clear now.
  • While businesses are reopening, demand still seems too low to be sustainable.


Leading in a crisis post explores this methodology (OODA loops) in detail


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Gianpiero– Science Can Rehumanize Management

Must we ignore science to re-humanize our theories of management? 

I am sitting here with a pile of articles from the very thoughtful Gianpiero Petriglieri.  

Good stuff. I’m glad he’s asking these questions in this moment. 

At the root of his thinking is his article entitled, “F**k Science!? An Invitation to Humanize Organization Theory.”  In the article, he calls on the Leadership Industrial Complex to move beyond ideological scientism to re-humanize our theories of and approaches to management.  

Management is really about the science of efficiently extracting and exploiting material, machine, and human labor resources via Taylorism; measuring, optimizing, and holding accountable. Success in creating shareholder value is largely driven by automating jobs and measured by automated systems. Management’s dogmatic prioritization of measurement, data and analysis dehumanizes people by working from mechanistic mental models that hold humans as little more than troublesome, but ultimately fungible, units of production and consumption. 

But the distinction between scientific management and humanistic leadership is a false one. We humans need science; we are smarter with science.  We must put science in service of humanity, not vice-versa.  The theoretical foundations underpinning this relationship smell bad, as Tim Leberecht writes. “Our individual and social bodies are quite sick, and it will need more than a vaccine to cure them.” It’s time to co-create new foundations that will spawn “living libraries” of fresh actions that might lead us to more humane methods and experiences.

Where do we start? Petriglieri suggests we kill our management ideas, but I contend that managers should be replaced by effective, humane leaders. 

Humane leaders can grow out of the idea that we cannot lead others much differently than we lead ourselves. 

If that’s true, then we need to look very carefully at how we lead ourselves. How do we motivate ourselves? How do we hold ourselves accountable? How do we measure our effectiveness?

Every one of us is experimenting daily with motivating ourselves and holding ourselves accountable.  Some of those experiments have been running successfully for years, others are wildly uncontrolled experiments wavering by the hour. 

We like to call the place where we personally experiment with more humane, effective methods of leading ourselves our “self leadership lab.”

As scientists in our own self leadership labs, we need to clarify our hypotheses, design our experiments, and collect data about our own experience.  We need to analyze and synthesize clearly so we can learn and refine our experiments and theories.  As Descartes says in his essay, Rules For Thinking,  

“As regards any subject we proposed to investigate, we must inquire not what other people have thought or what we ourselves conjecture, but what we can clearly and manifestly perceive by intuition or deduce with certainty for there is no other way of acquiring knowledge.”

What’s working for you?  How do you motivate yourself? Do you work for excellence, fun, money, or free lattes?  What feels exploitative and what feels more edifying? What experiments might you run that would lead to your own self liberation, your own self edification? Once we start asking those questions, fresh experiments will naturally follow. 

You can learn the fundamental truths of leading a complex human: you. 

We must use our best intelligence, our most sensitive attunement to our own feelings, and our deepest intuitions to feed our experimental process so that we can learn the fundamental truths of our own humanity and gain insights into the humanity of those we lead. 

Once you discover a theory and a practice that works for you, then you can test it with others on  your team.  From that seed of curiosity and compassion a fresh, humane, effective insight will grow.  Those new, more effective leadership theories will soon crowd out the tired, smelly old models and methods.  

So now my questions for you are:

  • How does your measure of success resonate with your team?
  • Does your team respond to the same motivators that you use with yourself?
  • How do you respond to the motivators you try to use with your team?

I am reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, History, where he says, 

“Of the universal mind each individual man is one more incarnation. All its properties consist in him. Each new fact in his private experience flashes a light on what great bodies of men have done, and the crises of his life refer to national crises. Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era.”

This co-creation of a new, humane leadership doesn’t require vast data sets. It requires curiosity, compassion, and the scientific method applied in our own self leadership labs. This process lets us each become part of a self-teaching organism– a self-generated, self-refining, self liberating  intelligence.

I look forward to being in your scientific community,

Stephen Sloan

Stephen Sloan is the founder of the Humane Leadership Institute and author of the new book, Humane Leadership.