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Ontological Leadership

Key Idea

The term ontology means the “science of being.” The ontological leader is someone who is not “thinking” as a leader but being a leader as a natural form of their self-expression. The ontological leader doesn’t turn on or off a leadership switch, but responds and acts spontaneously and intuitively as a leader to any situation that requires the exercise of leadership.

Book to Read

Creating Leaders: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model
by Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen, and Kari Granger
Article published in 2010 in the volume The Handbook for Teaching Leadership

Quick Take from the Book

The authors highlight three factors that are paramount to an ontological leader:

  1. Integrity (always honoring your word, which will result in trust and credibility).
  2. Authenticity (holding yourself accountable for acting in ways that align with who you are, including awareness of your own inauthenticities).
  3. Being committed to something bigger than oneself (the source of your power and persistence).

Quote of Note

"The exercise of creating a leader is complete when being a leader and exercising leadership effectively has become a student’s natural self-expression. Given that being a leader and exercising leadership “on the court” is an as-lived phenomenon, we draw on the ontological/phenomenological methodology to provide actionable access to the source of a person’s way of being and acting in any leadership situation. From that perspective we find that a person’s way of being and acting are a natural correlate of the way in which a leadership situation occurs for a person. Based on that, we provide our students with the opportunity to create for themselves a context for leading and leadership that shapes and colors any leadership situation such that their naturally correlated ways of being and acting are those of being a leader and exercising leadership effectively." – p. 260


See also: Authentic Leadership

Return to List of Leadership Styles