The Thursday afternoon session “Leading with Humanity: Practicing Authenticity, Equality and Wholeness” was led by Lori Hanau and Ellie Caldwell of Global Roundtable Leaders

Ellie Caldwell was called to so the work she does because of cardboard boxes. Her unlikely and inspiring “love story” captured the attention of twenty folks of all ages, gathered in a circle late Thursday afternoon in the Heifer Conference Room. We opened with a reading of slow living precepts, and Ellie’s story combined wisdom of past with a vision of slow living leadership for the future: leading with humanity.  

Ellie’s dad owned three factories that made corrugated containers. While prosperous and happy with his work, he wanted his children to make their own way in the world and regularly cited the statistics on businesses that failed in the second generation. But after ten years on her own, Ellie’s dad offered her a place in the firm, and that is when her life changed.

“My father had a presence as a leader, because when you were in his presence, he was in your’s. Regardless of your status, all were treated equally. It was full on authenticity. When you are experienced as being seen, valued and treasured as who you are, you become alive and rise to your nobility. We all jumped out of bed every day and ran to work. The creativity and productivity kept rising, all out of love, joy, respect. We knew it was rare, and to steward it.”

Small group discussions: Where have you experienced being held in true regard?

Ten years ago, Ellie took the leadership model she had learned from her father, and began advising leaders one-on-one, then groups, on connecting the inner self with what you are doing in outer world. She was hired to be community builder within the MBA sustainability program at Marlboro. Her job was to support the whole, to have people relate to the whole as individuals (rather than by status as student, or faculty, or staff) as well as to support students, staff, faculty as groups.

“Everyone is a leader, and everyone stewards the principle concepts of the community regardless of whether you’re student or president.” 

One key component of the program is a regular circle. People met for 50 minutes on an issue and were charged with coming up with three creative solutions. The circle was based on three principles. They meet as equal learning partners, knowing that diversity is strength. They cultivate the collective wisdom, and take responsibility for what they see. “Out of the circles come creative solutions, and over time we build muscles. We lead in a more whole way. We relate in a whole way to ourselves, one-to-one, as a group, to the mission of the organization and then to the whole world – a golden thread of intelligence. We are committed to elevating any group or space we are in.”

Small group discussions: how do you already act as leaders? What are the ways you honor people for who they are? What are the things you do that show your love and care for others?

It is easy to fall back into our old ways. It takes practice to consistently embody honoring others. Our culture conditions us to honor other things – status and reputation, for example – rather than honoring humanity. Building new synapses in our brains takes time and habit to get it right. Because it is difficult and uncommon in culture, it can be lonely. You have to be willing to be the only one in the room doing what is unexpected. Sometimes we can have allies we don’t know are there.

“The answer to how is yes,” was Ellie’s advice (and the title of a book she recommends). It doesn’t matter how — it’s just about doing it.  Start with what you have, and make changes, even if you only make changes within yourself. If you change yourself, you change the world.

Contemporary culture is a fast lane. Taking the time to be present with those you lead, as Ellie’s father did, embodies the precepts of slow living. Leading with humanity, practicing authenticity, equality and wholeness is based on the wisdom of the past with lessons for our future. 

For more information on leading with authenticity, go to or contact Lori Hanau and Ellie Caldwell, Keene NH, 603-357-1969

Blogger: Leslie Sullivan Sachs, project manager