Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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


Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Steps Toward Antiracist Leadership

A line of protesters faces a line of cops. We need antiracist leadership now.

Just a week ago we earned our leadership roles by analyzing data, making smart decisions, and leading our teams.  Our efforts were rewarded with influence and authority.

Then, the national conversation and our culture shifted.  Now, we must earn our right to lead again under an expanded and more inclusive set of rules.

The old model left millions dispossessed by structural racism, inequality, and inhumanity. We inherited that system and our success often depended upon and perpetuated it.  Yes, those systems efficiently delivered what we designed them to: goods, services, and profits.  But, our design left out critical values that we no longer have the luxury of excluding.  Our models have been revealed as illegitimate because they are unsustainable for our fellow citizens, our Earth, and our own integrity.

To earn leadership now, we must unlearn much of what we thought was true.  We must hold open our minds to the discomfort of not knowing. This is not the time for mindless action. To unlearn the old ways, we must sit quietly with people we don’t understand, those who are feeling pain, who are seething with anger, and who feel too unsafe to reveal their deep sadness. We need to invest our time and attention to find a deeper, wider, and truer understanding of their experience and our shared humanity.

Now is the time for leaders to step into the uncomfortable, the messy, the human. We must step into this moment to ask, to listen, and to design new models together. Together, we will find a more powerful, nuanced understanding of our common rights and responsibilities.

This is our work as leaders today.  Those leaders who rest in the comfort of their titles without doing this work will be left behind.

So there may be a thousand things to do- just keeping a family healthy or business afloat during a pandemic is a lot. But stop the doing for a moment. Listen.

You can start listening even if you are isolated in overwhelming responsibility or comfortable privilege. I have started by seeking out  the antiracist, poor, and disempowered voices I don’t normally hear. Here are a few starting places I have have found:

Listen to the anger, listen to the pain, listen to the sadness.  Let yourself be cracked open. Your ways of looking at the world will be broken by the experience.  Any new model you use to make sense of all the voices and data you gather needs to take all those challenging, historically underrepresented human variables into account.

The pledge of allegiance we used to say to our flag each school morning ended with our shared American goals of “liberty and justice for all.” I still believe in those values. As we lead ourselves, our families, and our teams, let’s make sure our actions actually move us closer to our ideals.

Stephen Sloan

Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

Posted on Leave a comment

How We Can Start Leading Our Leaders

Business and elected leaders are not trusted by most Americans to act in the public interest, our interest.

Pew Research, July 2019

As workers and citizens, we are partially responsible for allowing leaders to ignore their responsibilities to us.  As Americans, we are called to define the scope of our leaders’  responsibility, the criteria they need to meet in order to be allowed to lead us, and the values they must demonstrate to earn our loyalty.

This is especially important to remember this Memorial Day week. We mustn’t wait for November.  Many decisions critical to our economy, civil rights, healthcare, and democracy must be made in the coming months.

A budget is a  moral document

We must start evaluating and asking more of the leaders in our own lives, businesses, and in the nation today.

We don’t need anyone’s permission to start this work. Alexander Hamilton didn’t wait for permission. In Federalist Paper 85 he wrote,

“Thus have I, fellow citizens, executed the tasks I had assigned myself” as he offered his arguments in favor of the Constitution.

Hamilton also said that our leaders “must be controlled by the reason of the people.” (Federalist Paper 50) The reason of the people can reshape leadership by clearly and constructively evaluating our leaders’ efforts and results.

Is your leader:

  • Strong and fair?
  • Caring and empowering of others?
  • Informed, wise, and balanced in their decision-making?

At the Humane Leadership Institute, we’ve created a tool to help you evaluate your leader’s performance and how well your leader embodies your values.  Find the Evaluating Your Leader Wisdom Jig on our website.

First, get curious about your needs and your leaders’ needs:

  • How could your leader better meet your needs?
  • What personal or professional needs is your leader trying to meet for themselves?
  • Do those aligned with your shared values?
  • What might you do to find overlap and build alignment around shared needs and values?
  • What can you ask your leader to do to meet your needs and values?

Once you are clear about your leader’s performance and lived values, you can begin designing improvements to your leader’s behavior.  This is the tricky part: requesting changes. The goal is to have a discussion about how to better meet the needs of everyone involved. This can happen naturally in the course of conversation, in your own performance review meeting, on internal chat boards or social media, in an intervention, or even as an ultimatum.

If you’ve designed changes and are waiting for the right moment to share them, you  have already empowered yourself in the tradition of Alexander Hamilton. Self leadership at this level is available to every one of us. As you work through this process, your empowerment and self leadership skills will grow.  Your leader will either grow to better meet your needs or you will find yourself a better leader.

Of course, you needn’t do anything at all. But quietly following leaders who do not meet our own standards has brought us to this moment– a moment that has cost us many lives, jobs, hopes, and opportunities.

My hope this Memorial Day is that you and many others around you will take up this work of evaluating our leaders.  By clarifying and speaking our needs and values, we will lead ourselves into a new era of more responsive, responsible leadership.  That would be a fitting tribute to all those who sacrificed to defend our shared ideals of liberty and justice for all.

Featured photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash