Video: The Three Foundations of A Great Life, Great Leadership, and A Great Organization

9 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2011 Last revised: 18 May 2013

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)

Date Written: August 5, 2011


We argue here that the three factors we identify as constituting the foundation for being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership can also be seen as the foundations not only for great leadership, but also for a high quality personal life and an extraordinary organization. One can see this as a “value free” approach to values because, 1) integrity as we define it (being whole and complete) is a purely positive proposition, 2) authenticity is also a purely positive proposition (being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself out to be for others and who you hold yourself to be for yourself), and 3) being committed to something bigger than oneself is also a purely positive proposition (that says nothing about what that commitment should be other than it be bigger than oneself).

For an application of these principles to the Goldman Sach’s experience with the Abacus Mortgage Backed Securities Scandal see the appendix to the following talk:

Given as the Commencement address by Michael C. Jensen at the McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University Commencement Ceremonies, May 21, 2011. Video of the ceremonies is available at Video: The Three Foundations of a Great Life, Great Leadership, and a Great Organization.

If video player is not visible, click here.

Background: This address is based on our leadership research program (conducted with Steve Zaffron and Kari Granger over the last eight years). That research is designed to discover what it actually takes to create leaders – that is, to leave participants at the end of the course being leaders and effectively exercising leadership as their natural self expression.

Access to the full Slide-Deck Textbook and course materials (933 pages) for the Leadership Course at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, 20 – 27 June, 2012 is available at:

Keywords: Values, Integrity, Authenticity, Bigger Than Oneself, Virtue, Normative, Positive

JEL Classification: D29, D63, D64, L21, M14, Z1

Suggested Citation

Erhard, Werner and Jensen, Michael C., Video: The Three Foundations of A Great Life, Great Leadership, and A Great Organization (August 5, 2011). Barbados Group Working Paper No. 11-04; Harvard Business School NOM Unit Research Paper No. 11-122. 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

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