Deborah Ancona, Professor and Founder of the MIT Leadership Center, MIT Sloan School of Management
Kate Isaacs, Research Affiliate, MIT Sloan School of Management
From The Hill
We know a lot about how leaders can launch a nimble response to a fast-moving crisis. They need to do rapid sense-making by convening the best experts to collect and digest emerging data and information. They must be frank and transparent about what they know and don’t know about the situation and communicate clearly and continuously about what they are doing to respond. The best leaders also convey empathy for what their people are experiencing, and extend care and reassurance in uncertain times.
Most of all, leaders need to encourage and steer rapid scale innovation. Crises are fast-moving and laden with uncertainty. Decisions must often be made without full information and strategies have to be adapted to quickly changing circumstances. To mount a nimble crisis response, leaders must create the conditions to empower many people everywhere to help solve the problems at hand and push the best ideas forward to execute at scale.
In nimble organizations, the people who generate new ideas are entrepreneurial leaders, while the people who help them do what needs to be done are the enabling leaders, and the people responsible for high-level vision, strategy and resource allocation, as well as for collecting and disseminating information about the situation, are the architecting leaders.
Aithan Shapira, Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management
From MIT Sloan Management Review
As an artist who also works for a business school, I often talk with managers about how to inspire more creativity from their teams. It’s not that these managers don’t appreciate their left-brained, analytically oriented employees. On the contrary: They value their logic and practicality. Still, they lament, something is missing. Managers today seek inspired ideas, inventive solutions, ingenuity, originality, and new pathways to innovation. But their teams are not delivering.
The problem is not that professionals lack creative impulses but that they are too focused on getting the creative process right. For example, in supporting organizations that are implementing agile methodologies, I work with many teams so consumed by getting their chapters aligned or doing their sprints correctly that they miss the opportunities that spark imagination. They avoid the unknown — the uncertainty that breeds creativity.
Jeanne Ross, Director & Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School’s CISR
From MIT Sloan Management Review
As part of a set of research interviews, my colleague at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research (CISR), Martin Mocker, and I once asked technology staffers at 40 big companies what impact they thought they were having on their companies. Sadly, many said that they didn’t think they were having any impact. They were doing what they were supposed to do, but they could not see how their companies would apply their efforts to become more successful.
What a waste of resources — and a missed opportunity! I suspect that similar scenarios are playing out in many, many companies. Our research on digital transformations suggests that recruiting, directing, and developing talent is more important than ever but is also more challenging.
Great leaders are distinguished by their ability to master personal relationships.
“Without mastering collaborative relationships, both inside and outside the company, we won’t produce the outcomes needed to win our customers’ business.”
— Lori Beer, chief information officer, JPMorgan Chase
Mastering personal relationships that build trust and create a collaborative work environment is central to leadership effectiveness in the digital economy. This skill set distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones, based on my interviews with C-suite executives in companies around the world.
In a digital business environment, great leaders are those who appreciate and understand the power of technology and analytics. But that alone is insufficient. They must also have the skills and mindsets to bring together people from diverse businesses and functions to deliver superior customer outcomes. As Lori Beer, CIO at JPMorgan Chase, says:
“We don’t need everybody to know how to write the perfect API, but we do need people with a passion for working together to create an understanding of how those APIs, a blockchain, the cloud, AI, and machine learning can change the way you think about delivering services to our customers.”
By tapping into their inner child, leaders can blend the bold thinking and action of childhood while maintaining responsibility to the bottom line — an important balance in digital leadership.
When I turned five, I got a new bike. I didn’t know how to ride it, but I took it to a nearby hill anyway, a willing warrior, ready to ride. Was I prepared? Would I be brave enough to overcome the anxiety of facing the unknown? The truth is those questions never occurred to me at the time. Reflecting on this experience decades later, I realized I wasn’t just a willing warrior — I was an ecstatically enthusiastic one. Today, I can’t help but wonder why it seemed so much easier to take on significant new challenges as a five-year-old than it is for me now. As a child, did I have gifts that I somehow lost over the years? Was I foolish then and more responsible now? Upon further reflection, I have come to realize that I’ve been fighting a decades-long battle to not lose many of those gifts that made it relatively easy to learn new things when I was young.