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Mod. 10 - A Deeper Dive with the 3 Horizons of Leadership

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Group Assignment - Cybrarians of Vibrancy

Ryan Hodge, Ben Newman, Cara Pomponio, Sara Seidman, Vincent Skyers

The key leadership characteristics of an H1 model embody hierarchical structures, value shareholder profits as primary, and a scorched earth mentality where growth at all costs is justified and dominates-decision making over human values. These characteristics were generated by white (outwardly heterosexual) males who combined Western and Christian values with military culture to build their corporations resulting in a fear based, kill or be killed model where any protests or attempts to share power by subordinates are met with violence, sometimes literally, economically, and socially.

The “success” H1 leaders achieve can be measured in dollars, but it comes at the expense of people, both consumers and employees alike. Advances in education, technology, and society have democratized workplace values; the lack of livable wage increases among young people has reduced economic mobility, and the few opportunities for advancement that do exist are not made available to everyone due to systemic practices that block non-white people (and most often women) from advancing. The result of these practices causes employees to feel taken advantage of, experience burnout, and leave the company in pursuit of better opportunities resulting in what we now call the “Great Resignation.”

When companies begin losing profits due to changes in attitudes by their customers and/or workers, they “change.” H1 leaders briefly embody the practices of Green organizations as, exemplified by Frederic Laloux by offering to pay for abortions and offering higher salaries. Still, the result is workers becoming complacent and eventually falling back into Orange and Amber zones.

Some services that H1 leaders provide, such as health and retirement benefits, should not only be retained but viewed as essential in reimagined org structures. Qualities such as tradition, reputation, consistency, and clear work expectations are also important values that benefit workers and leaders alike. However, the individual (ego) driven versus people-driven H1 leadership structure is unsustainable. Keep the services, change the leadership style.


The open-source ethos of early hackers in the 1980s is an example of H2 leadership values. Unlike the stylized hackers of Hollywood and pop culture, these hackers got their name from hacking into MIT’s first-generation supercomputer lab and poked, prodded, broke and ultimately taught themselves how a computer works. Bypassing their professor’s stubborn practices, they not only invented the first programming languages, but also did the unthinkable and shared their discoveries with the world for free using resources like the Whole Earth catalog, community gatherings, and homemade analog forum boxes.They believed that free information plus the computer would revolutionize the world, and they were right. Their disruptive contributions ushered in the Information Age.

Over time, however, a large portion of the movement diverged from the altruistic ideals of free information towards profits, becoming the behemoth that is today’s Silicon Valley. Emerging from the wake of the beast, open-source, transparent platforms like Khan Academy retain the values of H2+ leadership by making their platform free to the public. Originally, Khan Academy was Sol’s side project to help his family reduce education gaps that were not met by the public education system. Demand for his tutoring proliferated, he taught himself to code and made home videos with embedded quizzes, all while working a day job. His effective and intuitive instructional style, coupled with the rise of YouTube, exploded his audience and range. The Academy grew to a large nonprofit, disrupting the public education system and the entrenched for-profit College Test Prep system. By giving teachers and lower-income students access to a free alternative to expensive College Test Prep they could compete at the same level as their wealthier peers.

But while these democratized resources provide greater access to information, there are still challenges to overcome. In the job market, completion of Khan Academy modules holds very little weight. They are still viewed as a study aid to “real” higher education. Corporations need to legitimize Khan Academy course completion and further democratize and disrupt the educational system by providing job opportunities to qualified individuals with the same information and skill sets.

Similarly, open-source education platforms are an important stepping stone towards democratizing education, but they are still not currently accessible to everyone. The platforms require access to a computer, the internet and most importantly time. For many lower income families time is a premium luxury they can’t afford. Free education can only be fully realized if other individuals and communities follow the H2+ leadership values of the 80s hackers to rally, innovate, and share freely and widely.


In H3, we start to see how technology disrupts traditional markets by streamlining consumer access. Open-source forums and free educational platforms put knowledge into the public domain allowing makers with similar values to share information with the public to create new sustainable materials like vegan leather, and sustainable practices like foraging in the woods and sharing code through p5.js and Khan Academy. Social movements like Sunrise Movement and local Mutual Aid groups not only put sustainable ideas into action, they demonstrate H3 leadership by implementing non-hierarchical structures in their organizations. These groups do not hoard resources or money, they are rooted in giving everything that is raised back to their communities and value financial transparency.

These H3 values emerged because people started to reach a breaking point waiting for traditional sources to implement change and provide solutions. H3 looks at the roots and fruits of H1’s leadership, sees where H2 disrupted their traditional models and goes further by combining energy and innovation with sustainable values to start anew.

Disruptive actors have to be conscientious and choose if their work will retain H1 leadership or experiment in the unknown to create H3. Beginning from a mindset of abundance is a new framework in H3 leaders that moves away from scarcity and greed and opens up opportunities to share information, resources, and practice transparency. Abundance removes scarcity and therefore stealing ideas from open communities for personal gain and maintaining the capitalist status quo is no longer a needed or valued practice. H2 leaders streamlined access to the consumer through social media, now H3 leaders are harnessing the power of convenience and innovating by incorporating H3 values while generating new revenue sources. By combining sustainable products, practices and values, H3 leaders can begin to experiment further and move towards creating a world where people are no longer tied to their job for healthcare, parental leave, etc. H3 leaders create space to imagine a society where basic human rights are a given and not irrevocably tied to corporate gains.


Current H1 leadership operates in hyper-indexed profit-driven competition and exploitation that leverages the value-cost trade-off in the race to profitability—negatively affecting employees, customers, and society. Nevertheless, some redeeming elements exist that should be captured through the transition to H2 in preparation for H3—systems and processes that serve a more equitable human-centric, and sustainable future state (including environmental). But unfortunately, these benefits are not altruistic in nature. Instead, they are a by-product of competition as business leaders compete for resources by appealing to talent (employees) and a potential captive paying audience (customers). Ultimately the H1, H2, and H3 framework is a trend identifier. As such, individuals or groups engaged in auditing can determine to retain the positive elements of the current state as they look to H2's disruptive innovation.

H2's current landscape is a push-and-pull between leadership approaches that;

1. Recognize the need to move away from practices that, while patterning current life (H1), promote unsustainable operating methods (Exxon, Tractor Supply), and

2. Visionary leadership provides pockets of hope by prototyping emerging technologies and repositioning the zeitgeist of a possible future (Tesla, REI, IBM).

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