Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2010

Creating Leaders: An Ontological Model

by Werner Erhard, Michael C. Jensen and Kari L. Granger


The sole objective of our ontological approach to creating leaders is to leave students actually being leaders and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression. By "natural self-expression" we mean a way of being and acting in any leadership situation that is a spontaneous and intuitive effective response to what one is dealing with. In creating leaders we employ the ontological discipline (from the Latin ontologia "science of being," see Heidegger (1927)). The ontological model of leader and leadership opens up and reveals the actual nature of being when one is being a leader and opens up and reveals the source of one's actions when exercising leadership. And ontology's associated phenomenological methodology (explained in the next paragraph) provides actionable access to what has been opened up. The being of being a leader and the actions of the effective exercise of leadership can be accessed, researched, and taught either: 1) as being and action are observed and commented on "from the stands," specifically as these are observed by someone, and then described, interpreted and explained (third-person theory of), or 2) as being and action are actually experienced "on the court," specifically as these are actually lived (real-time first-person experience of). As a formal discipline, the "on the court" method of accessing being and action (that is, as being and action are actually lived) is named phenomenology. In short, an epistemological mastery of a subject leaves one knowing. An ontological mastery of a subject leaves one being. Of course the students themselves do not need to study ontology; they only require the access to being and the source of action that is provided by the ontological perspective. And, they don't need to study phenomenology; they only need to be provided with the actionable pathway to the being of being a leader and the actions of effective leadership made available by the phenomenological methodology.

Keywords: Leadership Development; Goals and Objectives; Science; Attitudes; Perspective;


Erhard, Werner, Michael C. Jensen, and Kari L. Granger. "Creating Leaders: An Ontological Model." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 11-037, October 2010.