Academic Papers and Research about the course Being A Leader and Effective Exercise of Leadership: The Ontological / Phenomenological Model

An Ontological/Phenomenological Model of Leadership

Baker, Uchenna (author); White, Carolyne J. (chair); Alidou, Ousseina D. (internal member); Backstrand, Jeffrey (internal member); Josephson, Jyl (internal member); Rutgers University; Graduate School – Newark, New Jersey

Description: Colleges and universities are being challenged to prepare students to become empowered leaders who know themselves as engaged, active participants in the creation of a future for society. Unfortunately some students are graduating from of our higher education institutions without having acquired the critical skills needed to navigate life with power. Some students are not getting sufficient opportunities for critical thinking, self-agency, and social action in the classroom. Without engaged and empowered learners, the future of education and society is at risk. This research inquires into the ontological/phenomenological course “Being a Leader and The Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model”, how it might inform the transformational possibilities of individuals who engage in it, and how those individuals are creating futures for themselves and others that would not otherwise happen. This research positions this leadership course as an example of a pedagogical approach that might ignite transformational outcomes and reform American higher education. Employing autoethnography, participatory action research, and interviews, this study explores how the course contributes to the personal transformation, social action and institutional reform that the participants, including myself, pursue. It illuminates the transformational possibilities of this course from three perspectives: from my lived experience as both participant and observer, through a group of diverse women leaders (Women Leading Group), and through members of a learning community of college and university faculty (LECOLE: Learning Community for Ontological / Phenomenological Leadership).

This study documents the possibilities that emerge when participants engage in an ontological leadership course that invites them to create futures that call for their leadership. This study postulates that the implementation of an ontological model in the classroom can be one key contribution to the development of students and educators and the reformation of American education. When educators and students are invited to examine who we are being as leaders in the classroom and the world, we are then better equipped to engage as citizens and agents of change. Collectively, we can renovate education and empower individuals from all walks of life who may then inform and create the future of American education and society.

The Ontological/Phenomenological Initiative Research Group

Nancy Carney, PhD Principal Investigator Oregon Health & Science University
Tracie Nettleton, MBI Co-Investigator Oregon Health & Science University
Nico Ballarini, MSc Statistician University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Molly Stillwell, BSc Research Associate Oregon Health & Science University

Background: Since 2004 Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen, Steve Zaffron, Kari Granger (2008-2015), and Jeri Echeverria (2013-present) have developed and delivered a course – Being a Leader & the Effective Exercise of Leadership: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model (the Leadership Course) – which employs an ontological model of leadership and a phenomenological method to deliver on a unique and bold promise: “You will leave this course being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as your natural self-expression in any situation and no matter what the circumstances.”

While Erhard, Jensen and colleagues have accumulated anecdotal data about the outcomes of the two courses they lead each year, and a formal course evaluation program is in place for those two annual courses, a structure does not exist for the systematic acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of objective data about the long-term impact of the Leadership Course in the lives of those who participate. In addition, the course leaders do not have a system for probing the relative contributions of various aspects of the course, and to use the findings for program development. Finally, while rich theoretical literature has been generated by this group, the formal contribution of empirical evidence is limited.

Nancy Carney and colleagues have created the Ontological/Phenomenological Initiative Research Group (The Research Group) for the purpose of addressing and filling the gaps in the current program. The Research Group are a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and clinicians with a rich portfolio of research accomplishments encompassing medical and social sciences, and diverse funding sources including private foundations, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, and the National Institutes of Health. The Research Group is made up of faculty and students of Oregon Health & Science University, University of Rosario (Argentina), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Saybrook University.

Long-Term Objectives and Goals: The long-term objectives of this proposed research program are to (a) contribute to the creation of a “scholarship/science (and pedagogy) appropriate to the ontological model of leader and leadership with its methodology of phenomenology that acknowledges that being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership is a first-person lived experience ,” and (b) develop the capacity for scholars and researchers to “study, research, and teach it as such.” The goals are:

  1. to create a research agenda for the Leadership Course with a sufficient scope to realize the stated objectives;
  2. to design and carry out a series of studies that will (a) test the effectiveness of the course in causing new futures for its participants, and (b) provide a platform for course development;
  3. to use findings to build a body of knowledge in the scientific literature about the ontological model and phenomenological method for creating leaders; and
  4. to build a funding base for the research program

Phase I. Survey Research: The Research Group designed and conducted a survey to measure the influence of the Leadership Course on outcomes for participants, and have administered it to participants in the courses in the Singapore at Nanyang Technological University (July 2014), Bermuda (October 2014), and in Dubai held at the conference center of Zayed University (January 2015). The survey, asking each participant to report on leadership in their life in the areas of Relationship, Vocation, Avocation, and Self, is administered prior to the course, and at three time-points after the course – immediately, 4 months post-course, and 1 year post-course. The Research Group is tracking changes that participants report on in the area of their leadership over time. Final results for each course will be available one year after the completion date of each course. Final reports will be submitted in the form of manuscripts submitted for publication to a peer-reviewed journal.