Ontological Leadership

Shaping the Future of Leadership

Leadership is a multifaceted concept that has seen various approaches and theories emerge over the years. One such approach that has gained significant attention is ontological leadership. Ontological leadership is a philosophy that goes beyond conventional leadership theories by focusing on being rather than doing. It emphasises a leader’s way of being and the impact it has on individuals, organisations, and society as a whole. In this article, we will explore ontological leadership, its principles, and its potential to shape the future of leadership.

Understanding Ontological Leadership

Ontological leadership is rooted in the study of ontology, which deals with the nature of being and existence. Ontological leaders recognise that their way of being influences their actions, decisions, and relationships with others. It is based on the premise that leadership is not just a role or a set of skills, but a way of being in the world.

According to ontological leadership, effective leadership involves developing self-awareness, authenticity, empathy, and the ability to engage in meaningful conversations. The leader’s way of being sets the tone for the organisation and influences how others perceive and engage with the leader and the organisation as a whole.

Principles of Ontological Leadership

Ontological leadership is guided by several principles that distinguish it from traditional leadership approaches. These principles include:


Self-awareness is a cornerstone of ontological leadership. Leaders who possess self-awareness have a deep understanding of their values, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, and emotions. They are conscious of their impact on others and continually reflect and learn from their experiences.


Authenticity is another vital principle of ontological leadership. Authentic leaders are genuine, transparent, and true to themselves. They align their words and actions, building trust and fostering a sense of credibility among their followers.


Ontological leaders recognise the importance of empathy in building meaningful connections with their team members. They seek to understand others’ perspectives, emotions, and needs, fostering a supportive and inclusive organisational culture.

Conversational Mastery

Conversational mastery is a key skill for ontological leaders. They have the ability to engage in meaningful and transformative conversations that stimulate learning, creativity, and collaboration. They ask powerful questions, actively listen, and create a safe space for open dialogue.

Language and Action

Ontological leaders understand the power of language and action. They are intentional with their words and behaviours, using them to inspire, motivate, and empower others. They align their actions with their commitments, creating a culture of accountability and integrity.

Shaping the Future of Leadership

Ontological leadership has the potential to shape the future of leadership in several ways:

Emphasis on Personal Growth

Ontological leadership places a strong emphasis on personal responsibility, growth and development. Leaders who practice ontological leadership are constantly evolving, learning, and improving themselves. This focus on personal growth inspires others to do the same, creating a culture of continuous learning and development within the organisation.

Building Authentic Relationships

Ontological leaders prioritise building authentic relationships with their team members. They foster an environment of trust, respect, and open communication, enabling individuals to thrive and contribute their best. This emphasis on authentic relationships strengthens teamwork, collaboration, and employee engagement.

Promoting Inclusion and Diversity

Ontological leadership recognises the value of inclusion and diversity in driving innovation and success. Leaders who embrace ontological leadership principles actively seek diverse perspectives, experiences, and ideas. They create an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued and can contribute their unique strengths.

Nurturing Organisational Culture

Ontological leaders play a crucial role in shaping organisational culture. Their way of being sets the tone and influences the behaviours and values within the organisation. By embodying authenticity, empathy, and integrity, ontological leaders create a positive and values-driven culture that attracts and retains top talent.

Enhancing Leadership Effectiveness

Ontological leadership enhances leadership effectiveness by focusing on the leader’s way of being. By developing self-awareness and mastering the art of impactful conversations, leaders are better equipped to inspire and motivate their teams. This approach to leadership cultivates leaders who are adaptable, resilient, and capable of leading in complex and uncertain environments.


Ontological leadership represents a shift in how we perceive and practice leadership. By emphasising a leader’s way of being, ontological leadership has the potential to transform organisations and individuals. It promotes self-awareness, authenticity, empathy, and conversational mastery, paving the way for more effective and meaningful leadership. As we look to the future, ontological leadership offers a framework for leaders to navigate the complexities and challenges of a rapidly changing world.