Course Materials for: ‘Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model’

1054 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2008 Last revised: 7 Feb 2017

Werner Erhard


Michael C. Jensen

Social Science Electronic Publishing (SSEP), Inc.; Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); Harvard University - Accounting & Control Unit

Steve Zaffron

Landmark Worldwide LLC; Vanto Group

Date Written: December 31, 2016


Slide-Deck Textbook and course materials (1054 pages) for the Leadership Course held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 10-19 October, 2016.

This leadership course is designed to leave students being leaders and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression – rather than attempting to learn the characteristics, styles, and skills of noteworthy leaders, and then trying to remember and apply them where appropriate.

The course is not designed to merely leave the students with knowledge (that is not designed to leave students “knowing” about leaders and leadership and able to cogently discuss the issues surrounding leader and leadership). Rather, the course is designed to give students actual access to being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership as their natural self-expression. Our promise to the students is that if they honor their word to fulfill the requests we make of them they will leave the course being leaders and exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression.

History and More on the Course

The course material is based on our work over the last twelve years in developing a course of the same title beginning at the University of Rochester Simon School of Business, USA from 2004-2008. The course has been taught in the curriculum at the US Air Force Academy from 2008 to 2011 and in 2014 and 2015 (a version of the course was taught in 2012 and 2013); at Erasmus Academie Rotterdam, Netherlands in June 2009 (a version of which was taught at the Erasmus University Law School from 2009 and 2010); at Texas A&M University Mays School of Business, USA in June 2010; in India under the auspices of the IC Centre for Governance and MW Corporation in November 2010; at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, USA in June 2012; at the University of British Columbia’s entrepreneurship@UBC, Canada in June 2013; at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in July 2014; at the Zayed University Convention Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in January 2015 and held at Clemson University College of Business in June 2016. Courses offered for the benefit of the Erhard-Jensen Ontological/Phenomenological Initiative include: Whistler, B.C. Canada in October 2012; Bermuda in November 2014; Cancun, Mexico in October 2013 and December 2015; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in October 2016.

We have also trained over 100 faculty members from around the world to teach the course in their universities and colleges, 35 of these currently teach either the full semester course or a version thereof in their respective academic institutions. The course is still under development and will be for several more years.

The research project that led to the creation of this course (and the papers and slides on leadership that are the Textbook for the course in the attached pdf file) originated from our interest in laying the foundations for a science of leadership. We agree with Warren Bennis (2002, p. 2) and Joseph Rost (1993, p. 8) who conclude respectively: “It is almost a cliche of the leadership literature that a single definition of leadership is lacking.” and “The scholars do not know what it is they are studying, and the practitioners do not know what it is they are practicing.”

Taking on the question of “what leadership is” required us to get into what it is to be a leader and what it is to exercise leadership effectively as a lived experience, rather than as a description, explanation or a theory. Getting to the core of being a leader and the actions of effective leadership led naturally to tackling the task of actually creating leaders, and the natural laboratory for exploring that question was the classroom. Mark Zupan, Dean of the U. of Rochester Simon School of Business and his colleagues provided us the five-year laboratory to do this and the course was created.

We resolve the puzzle over what leadership is by uniquely distinguishing leader and leadership as the intersection of four precise aspects which are respectively:
Leader and Leadership as 1. Linguistic Abstractions (leader and leadership as “realms of possibility”), 2. Phenomena (leader and leadership as lived on the court, that is, as experienced in the exercise of or in being impacted by), 3. Domains (the field or sphere in which leader and leadership function), 4. Terms (leader and leadership as definitions).

The access provided to (and therefore what is revealed about) leader and leadership when dealt with as a realm of possibility is different than the access provided to (and therefore what is revealed about) leader or leadership when they are dealt with as a phenomenon, or as a domain, or as a term.

We argue that when the four perspectives are taken together, as a whole they provide access to mastering what leader and leadership actually are. This enables us to get our arms around the being of a leader and the effective exercise of leadership. Having mastered this overall context, we can then get our hands on the levers and dials of being a leader, and the effective exercise of leadership.

What follows – in a single pdf document of 1000 pages of PowerPoint slides, Word documents, and exhibits – is a collection of virtually all the materials used in the course, including the student course evaluations for our courses.

Our desire is to make the course available to any faculty in higher education to teach it, to communicate it and to extend it. This release of the material is not fully complete nor is it polished to our standards. We will continue to update and extend the material and will revise these files. We are releasing the material so that we can benefit from the comments, criticisms and suggestions of others in higher education who share our desire to accelerate the development of a true science of leadership. We want to see this material (or material derived from it) taught in every major college and university.

While the course is still a work in progress, we, the authors and instructors, are making all the materials available through SSRN (Social Science Research Network) to those faculty members who wish to teach versions of the course in a university or college setting.

For the full introductory paper to the course (the 5th of five pre-course readings): “Introductory Reading for Being A Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model” see:

For the URL's to the 5 Pre-Course Readings for the Course ‘Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model’ see:

For the introductory seminar to the course see:

For the introductory chapter to the course published in: Scott Snook, Nitin Nohria, Rakesh Khurana, Editors “The Handbook For Teaching Leadership” Sage Publications, 2011 see:

Keywords: Leadership, Ontology, Ontological Model of Human Nature, Ontological Constraints, Perceptual Constraints, Functional Constraints

JEL Classification: M1

Suggested Citation

Erhard, Werner and Jensen, Michael C. and Zaffron, Steve, Course Materials for: ‘Being a Leader and the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model’ (December 31, 2016). Harvard Business School NOM Working Paper No. 09-038; Simon School Working Paper No. 08-03; Barbados Group Working Paper No. 08-02. Available at SSRN: or

Michael C. Jensen (Contact Author)

Social Science Electronic Publishing (SSEP), Inc. ( email )

7858 Sanderling Road
Sarasota, FL 34242
United States
617-510-3363 (Phone)
305 675-3166 (Fax)


Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field
Negotiations, Organizations & Markets
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-510-3363 (Phone)
305-675-3166 (Fax)


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

B-1050 Brussels

Harvard University - Accounting & Control Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Steve Zaffron

Landmark Worldwide LLC

353 Sacramento St.
Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

Vanto Group ( email )

353 Sacramento Street
Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

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