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  • High-Performance Leadership in a Hurry?: Michael Jensen’s Four Foundations of Great Leadership

    HONG KONG — Can high-performance leaders really be created in a matter of months? The U.S. Air Force is doing it. And so are a growing number of business schools and organizations around the world. The life work of Emeritus Harvard Professor Michael Jensen is reversing the adage that leaders are born, not made with the four foundations of great leadership.

    High-performance leadership isn’t just about virtues and right vs. wrong. Instead, Jensen says his four principles are absolutely essential to a leader’s own self-interest as well as the organization because all four bring joy, personal and professional value, trust, and workability.

    Jensen recently shared the four-tiered approach, “The Four Foundations of a Great Personal Life, Great Leadership, and a Great Organization” developed by Jensen and his co-author Werner Erhard, during interactive leadership seminars to executive audiences in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

    Lest you think Jensen’s approach is ambitious, consider this: Years of research proves his premise that it’s not enough to be knowledgeable about leadership or innovation; today’s business requirements demand 24/7 leadership as a natural state of being.

    It’s an observation that Insigniam management consultants see again and again with clients around the world: Successful leadership requires these four principles. (And if you have followers, you’re leading wrong.)

    Four foundations of great leadership

    During the seminars, Jensen shared the four foundations of great leadership — personally and professionally:

    1. Authenticity
    Be and act consistent with who you really are. But before you can get there, you have to be authentic about your “inauthenticities” to yourself and others.

    2. 100% Responsibility
    Take a stand and be responsive. However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hold others accountable.

    3. Purpose
    Purpose gives drive and passion required to lead. It’s also why a leader is persistent, even when the path becomes tough.

    4. Integrity
    Honor your word, and when you don’t, resolve the matter honestly and quickly.

    The power of commitment

    These four foundations fuel perseverance. There will be many days when objectives aren’t met, when everything seems wrong, and help is not on the way.

    Jensen argues that a leader’s passion to be committed to something bigger than himself or herself provides the endurance to get through anything, and inspires others to adopt that quest as their own as well.

    Without that passion or realization of the future, organizations and people experience a profound lack of fulfillment, resulting in an “is this all there is?” crisis, leaving companies and employees disoriented, confused, unhappy, and uninspired. All the knowledge about leadership can’t turn that around. The leader committed to the future, however, is already addressing matters. Which one are you?

    Sponsored by Insigniam, an international management consulting company, Jensen’s presentations were hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce Thailand, the Thai Institute of Directors, and the American Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong.

    Are you a Breakthrough Leader? Evaluate your strengths with this assessment.

    The full Erhard-Jensen paper can be downloaded here.