KARL MOORE: This is Karl Moore, talking management for The Globe and Mail. Today, I am delighted to speak to one of the leading business scholars in the world, Michael Jensen, who is a senior professor at the Harvard Business School.
Good afternoon, Michael.
MICHAEL JENSEN: Good afternoon, Karl.
KM: Michael, you have been studying leadership for many years now. Recently, you have come up with a new model of leadership. Can you tell us about that please?
MJ: This model is very different from anything that exists out there and it has been produced as a result of creating a course, a full-semester course, that's designed to create leaders - not to talk about leadership, not to analyze leadership, not to be knowledgeable about leadership, but to actually to leave students being leaders and effectively exercising leadership as their natural self-expression when they leave the course, and we deliver on that.
KM: Wow, you have got to tell me more about that - that sounds exciting.
MJ: It's based on the field of ontology, which almost nobody knows anything about - that in itself makes it very different. What is ontology about? It is the science and study of being - of human beings. How can you get anything better than, if you want to train leaders, if you want to create leaders, you have got to leave people being leaders and effectively exercising leadership. So that is why ontology works. We are fighting a double battle with getting people to accept it because they have got to get over the hump of, first of all, understanding what this "being" stuff is all about, and get their arms around it, and it's now taking hold in a number of institutions throughout the world. It's now, after seven years, that it's beginning to really take off. Our goal is to get a version of this course taught in every major university in the world.
KM: You help them understand what being a leader is by becoming leaders, by understanding the nature of themselves and of leadership? What is it that you do?
MJ: First of all, we get students to be familiar with and give them access to what we call the foundations of leadership. Those foundations amount to three things: integrity, authenticity, and being committed to something bigger than oneself.
That, then, provides the foundation on which we introduce them to a contextual framework for leader and leadership that calls them into being as a leader whenever the situation occurs.
Finally, we expose them to - and get them to see for themselves - what we call the constraints on their leadership abilities. What are those constraints? We call them ontological perceptual constraints and ontological functional constraints.
The perceptual constraints, which almost all of us are unaware of, literally constrain shape and make us blind to substantial amounts of what's going on in front of us. So we expose students to those perceptual constraints, and they are pretty dramatic and they surprise people.
Then, we expose them to what we call ontological functional constraints. What are those? Those are what psychologists sometimes call knee-jerk reactions. In response to some stimulus, a reaction is generated and human beings have a vast array of these and there is basically no choice. So what we do is expose students to these things in their own lives, and by doing that, actually the grip that those perceptual and functional constraints have on us is relaxed. We actually can take control of them and, as a result of those things, people leave the course - a very large fraction of them - being leaders and effectively exercising leadership as their natural self-expression. That is a radical approach.
KM: Would you see most people as being capable of being leaders?
MJ: Yes, most people can. Being a leader is a very risky enterprise, so a lot of people will choose not to be a leader out there in the world. Leadership starts with being a leader of your own life, so most people want to pick up at least that part of the mantle, but leadership is risky: People get killed for being leaders; people get disappointed - you will go through some very tough times and not everybody chooses to do that.
KM: This has been Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, talking management for The Globe and Mail.