The Three Foundations of a Great Life, Great Leadership, and a Great Organization

by Michael C. Jensen

Overview — This is the commencement speech that HBS professor Michael Jensen delivered to the 2011 graduates of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. Drawing from his own experiences, he discusses the three foundations of a great personal life, great leadership, and a great organization. Those three foundations are integrity, authenticity, and being committed to something bigger than oneself. Key concepts include:

  • As integrity declines, workability declines. As workability declines, value (or more generally, the opportunity for performance) declines.
  • The actionable pathway to authenticity is to be authentic about your inauthenticities.
  • Being committed to something bigger than oneself is the source of both personal and corporate passion and energy.

Author Abstract

I argue here that the three factors my co-authors and I 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).

Paper Information