Relevance to Leadership


Phenomenology is the “as-lived” study of the various challenges that leaders deal with and the way in which these phenomena are experienced from the first-person point of view.


(interpretive) phenomenology

The name given to phenomenology that claims that leaders cannot fully bracket their biases and assumptions when they “unpack” a leadership challenge because these biases and assumptions are never independent of their history, culture, and social context. We experience a thing as something that has already been interpreted.

Existentials of human “Being”

Existentials are characteristics (structures) of human “Being” that are revealed by the analysis of its existence. These structures-being-in-the-world-(thrown), being-with-others, being-as-care, being-in-language, and being-in-time are already always there no matter what the leader is dealing with and no matter what his or her way of being and acting in dealing with it.

The occurring

Refers to the way in which 1) the leadership challenge the leader is dealing with occurs (shows up) for him or her; 2) the way in which the possible realizable futures (outcomes of the challenge) occur for her/him; and 3) the way in which the leader occurs for him/herself in dealing with the particular leadership challenge at hand.


Refers to a fundamental set of (often) unchallenged and hidden assumptions inside of which the leader’s dealings show up for him or her. The notion of context involves two distinct but inseparable elements that arise together: the content (aka, the situation, the circumstances, or the leadership challenge) and the context that surrounds the content and provides the lens for its interpretation.

Absorbed coping

Refers to the unconscious, skillful dealings of leaders with their routine day to day activities―driving to work, turning on the computer, using their phone, walking to a meeting―that require minimal (conscious) intervention of cognitive or emotional states. It is experienced as a harmonious flow of ways of being and acting in response to whatever situation the leader is dealing with that does not require any deliberation or planning in advance and does not occupy attention while occurring.


Refer to the result of a foiled intention resulting in a disruption in the leader’s absorbed coping. The leader is forced into deliberation and reflective assessment. In deliberation one stops and considers what is going on and plans what to do, all in a context of involved activity. Breakdowns create openings for action.


Refers to the leader’s inevitable submission to existence itself, in which they find themselves continuously “thrown” into situations they do not choose and that often seem to be indifferent to their concerns. In dealing with their “thrown situatedness”, the leader is always being some way.


The central structure of any experience is its being intentionally directed toward something, e.g., a leadership challenge. In short, intentionality is aboutness. Intentional action is the result of activated neural circuits in the brain and, more practical, the conscious experience that “I” am the source of the action. The intentionality of an action refers to it being deliberate, thoughtful, and goal-oriented.


The Heideggerian term “clearing” has a double meaning. It refers to both a material space and to a metaphorical space of conscious intelligibility in which human beings can “be”. In this latter sense, it is the site where the layers of the leader’s hidden and limiting beliefs and assumptions are peeled back. This disclosure of the authentic self is a “clearing-away” process that opens up a clearing-for-action in which the leader is free to be and free to act, rather than being constrained by common notions about what it is to be a leader and what it is to exercise leadership effectively.