Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2010

Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological Model (PDF File of PowerPoint Slides)

by Werner Erhard, Michael C. Jensen and Kari Granger

Abstract

This presentation is based on our research program over the last seven years in which our objective has been to rigorously distinguish leader and leadership and to create a technology for providing access to being a leader and exercising leadership effectively (in short, a technology for reliably creating leaders). Our research program involves not only discovering the technology, but also to create a course that would be available to others to use, experiment with, research, improve on and innovate from. Our efforts thus required an experimental laboratory to discover what will enable us as educators and trainers to efficiently and effectively create leaders.

Dean Mark Zupan of the U. of Rochester Simon School Of Business provided us with a research/teaching laboratory during the five years (2004–2008) we worked there with students, alumni, executives, and faculty from various academic institutions. This laboratory allowed us to investigate leader and leadership as phenomena, and to create technologies for providing actionable access to leader and leadership. The course is now also taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, was delivered in 2009 at the Erasmus Academie (Rotterdam), and a version of which is taught at the Erasmus University Law School. In June 2010 the course was taught at the Mays School of Business, Texas A&M University.

The course is designed to leave participants being leaders and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self expression, and to contribute to creating a new science of leadership. We have two or three more years of development left to do and eventually we will produce the product as papers and perhaps a book.

The technology and the course is founded on what we term an ontological model of human nature. The ontological approach is uniquely effective in providing actionable access to being a leader and exercising leadership effectively.

While ontology as a general subject is concerned with the being of anything, here we are concerned with the ontology of human beings (the nature and function of being for human beings). Specifically we are concerned with the ontology of leader and leadership (the nature and function of being for a leader and the actions of effective leadership). Who one is being when being a leader shapes one's perceptions, emotions, creative imagination, thinking, planning, and consequently one's actions in the exercise of leadership.

Being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership as one's natural self-expression does not come from learning and trying to emulate the characteristics or styles of noteworthy leaders, or learning what effective leaders do and trying to emulate them (and most certainly not from merely being in a leadership position, or position of authority). If you are not being a leader, and you try to act like a leader, you are likely to fail. That's called being inauthentic (playing a role or pretending to be a leader), deadly in any attempt to exercise leadership.

An epistemological mastery of a subject leaves you knowing. An ontological mastery of a subject leaves you being.

Gaining access to being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership as one's natural self-expression also requires dealing with those factors present in all human beings that constrain each person's freedom to be—and constrain and shape one's perceptions, emotions, creative imagination, thinking, planning, and actions. When one is not constrained or shaped by these factors—what we term "ontological constraints"—one's way of being and acting results naturally in one's personal best. We work with the students so that they accomplish this for themselves.

Keywords: Curriculum and Courses; Innovation and Invention; Leadership Development; Goals and Objectives; Research and Development; Attitudes; Perception; Technology; United States;

Citation:

Erhard, Werner, Michael C. Jensen, and Kari Granger. "Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological Model (PDF File of PowerPoint Slides)." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 09-124, October 2010.