MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Doug Ready
From MIT Sloan Management Review
What will it take to become a great leader in the digital economy? What will be the differentiating skill sets (what individuals will need to do) and mind-sets (how they will need to think and behave) that will shed light on what it will take to lead next-generation organizations effectively? We have set out to address these important questions as the foundation for MIT Sloan Management Review’s newest Big Ideas Initiative: The Future of Leadership in the Digital Economy.
Since it is impossible to know the future with certainty, we started by establishing a hypothesis about what skills and attributes this future leader might possess. We laid that hypothesis out in my first blog post, “Leading Into the Future,” in which we indicated that there will be both contextual elements (meaning fit for purpose for the digital economy) and core enabling elements (meaning traits that are so important that they form the cultural fabric of an organization). Merged together, we believe these core and contextual elements will help define what great leadership will look and feel like in the digital economy.
This was a good start, but an insufficient one, because we need to bridge the gap between what we know to be true today and what we believe will be true tomorrow. To help build that bridge, we will soon be distributing a global survey to thousands of practicing managers and leaders from around the world to get their views on this matter. We have also begun conducting in-depth interviews with CEOs, C-suite team members, heads of digitalization, senior line and functional leaders, and other thought leaders in all things digital.
MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Doug Ready
From Harvard Business Review
We know that two-thirds of large scale transformation efforts fail. But that’s not a terribly helpful piece of information―unless we’re looking for confirmation that this is hard, really hard. What is useful is to understand what leaders can do to substantially increase the odds that their companies won’t be among the two-thirds of those that fail. From my research and work with companies around the world leading large-scale transformation initiatives, here are the four things I’ve found that virtually all successful change leaders do really well:
Recognize embedded tensions and paradoxes
Smart, capable, solid professionals most often perform well in their roles until they reach a level in their organizations at which they are confronted with a series of embedded tensions and paradoxes that make leading effectively much more complicated. The most common paradoxes leaders face when driving a transformation effort are:
- Revitalization vs. Normalization. At the core of every change initiative is the desire to breathe new life into the organization―to revitalize ways of thinking, behaving and working. But one change initiative often morphs into many, and before long employees become “change weary.” Thus, we find ourselves in the conflicted situation of needing revitalization but desiring normalization.
- Globalization vs. Simplification. Doing business today means doing business globally, but the complexities brought on by globalization are often in conflict with the need for organizations to make it simple for customers to do business with them. Leaders struggle with creating organizational responses that address the need to master globalization while offering customers and employees optimal simplification.
- Innovation vs. Regulation. Many organizations, particularly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, are saddled with trying to do business, let along innovate, under increasingly crushing regulatory environments. This is a stifling tax on a company’s capacity to find creative approaches to solving unmet customers’ needs. As such we struggle with the tension between the desire to boost innovation and the need to operate under increasing regulation.