Care, Accountability, Responsibility, Leadership, Leadership Development, Systems Thinking, Radical Empathy, Radical Candor, Empathy, Human-centered, ethic of care, disability justice


Library and Information Science


Leaders and managers have an outsized impact on workers’ wellbeing. In facing the reality of constant and unpredictable change, leaders and managers need to consider the humanity of their employees as part of their commitment to equity. We suggest that library leaders and managers need to consider human-centered approaches as part of their leadership toolkit. Human-centered leaders have a strong focus on people and the organizational culture. They layer compassion and empathy in taking actions to fulfill the organization's mission.

We acknowledge that there are situations when taking a human-centered approach to the needs of library employees can feel in tension with the externally-facing service mission of our organizations. There are times when it is challenging to hold both human-centered principles and mission fulfillment in our minds at the same time. Additionally, balancing accountability and empathy can at times be in direct tension. The application of transparency in decision-making and clear boundaries can proactively set clear expectations for both supervisors and employees. Articulating these tensions also invites employees to share feedback and identify where systemic bias and inequity have the potential to do harm.

Together, we will explore the principles of human-centered leadership, practical applications of these principles from different institutional perspectives, and how to navigate tensions with fulfilling our mission. We will explore how radical empathy, considering our transformational roles, and frameworks of accountability can help us, as leaders, to focus on the humanity of our colleagues. While we will focus on providing organizational care, we will also explore how to provide care for ourselves as leaders while still holding ourselves accountable.


Presented at: Ontario Library Association Superconference 2023