Passion and vision in business are overrated – Charles Kiefer

MIT Sloan Lecturer Charles Kiefer

MIT Sloan Lecturer Charles Kiefer

From Forbes

If you are like a lot of people, your New Year’s Resolution list includes one or more ventures that you’ve been stalling on. Likely you’ve postponed working on this item due to some lack of clarity or perhaps you fear that you haven’t the proper passion for the topic or sector or a compelling vision to start a business. Indeed, how many times have you heard this advice given to people thinking of starting a company: “You’ve got to be passionate about it. You gotta love what you do.” But guess what?

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What VW can learn from Gen. Stanley McChrystal about imperfect leaders — Hal Gregersen

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

From Fortune

The title of Chief Executive Officer commonly conjures up images of a sharply dressed, smooth-talking individual who paints an inspiring, mesmerizing picture of their company in images and words. But it is underneath this veiled exterior that an organization’s real story lives.

When the Volkswagen scandal broke, my first thought went to the leaders of the company. Of course, there is the obvious question: Did former CEO Martin Winterkorn and Volkswagen America CEO Michael Horn know about the cheating (both have denied this)? But for me, a leadership scholar, the fiasco raises much more interesting questions about Winterkorn and Horn’s leadership styles: Did the CEO image or illusion they projected blind them from the realities of their own business? Did they perpetuate a culture where employees were fearful of sharing problems with those at the top? Though we may never know how much knowledge these leaders had prior to the public exposé, it is a compelling case of what can happen when leaders become too focused on an image of perfection. Rather than trying to conform to a pre-cast mold, I believe leaders should abandon their bogus two-dimensional views of leadership.

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Make it OK for employees to challenge your ideas — Hal Gregersen

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

From Harvard Business Review

Kodak. Sears. Borders. The mere mention of any of these companies brings to mind the struggle to stay relevant amid today’s technology and boundless alternatives. But behind each of them lies a deeper story of at least one leader who is or was “sheltered” from the reality of their business.

This dangerous “white space” where leaders don’t know what they don’t know is a critical one. But often, leaders — especially senior ones — fail to seek information that makes them uncomfortable or fail to engage with individuals who challenge them. As a result, they miss the opportunity to transform insights at the edge of a company into valuable actions at the core.

Nandan Nilekani, an Indian entrepreneur, bureaucrat, and politician who co-founded Infosys and was appointed by the Indian prime minister to serve as Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), believes it’s vital to keep this channel of communication open in any leadership position.

“If you’re a leader, you can put yourself in a cocoon … a good news cocoon” said Nilekani during our recent discussion. “Everyone says, ‘It’s alright, there’s no problem,’ and the next day everything’s wrong.”

So how do leaders keep themselves from being isolated at the top? For Nilekani, it comes down to one vital factor: asking and being asked uncomfortable questions.

The question “Why are we the way we are?” inspired him to write his book, Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation, which discusses the education, demographics, and infrastructure of his native country. Following his work with the UIDAI to help create a government database of the entire population of India (named “the biggest social project on the planet”) and his recent campaign for Indian National Congress, the question “How do you get kids to read and how do you get kids to learn arithmetic?” drove Nilekani to create a scaleable solution to bridge the education gap for younger generations in India and other parts of the world. And the umbrella question that defines Nilekani’s leadership journey is, perhaps not surprisingly, “What is it that I can do to have the best possible impact on the most possible people?”

Read the full post at the Harvard Business Review.

Hal Gregersen is Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management

 

How to build (and keep) a world-class data science team – Roger M. Stein

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Roger Stein

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Roger M. Stein

From MIT Sloan Management Review

The culture of world-class data science teams is one in which team members (and their managers) are excited by what their teammates can do. Here’s how to create that kind of high-performing team.

Every team needs talented people. In data science, talented people need not only to be good at what they do individually but also able to challenge their colleagues to create effective new solutions to very hard problems.

How do you build data science team to attract and retain this type of world-class talent?

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Leading digital transformation — George Westerman

MIT Sloan Research Scientist George Westerman

From TechCrunch

Digital technologies — from social media to mobile computing to big data to the Internet of everything — are transforming businesses in every industry.

Do you want to have conversations with your customers in ways that surveys and focus groups never could? Social media can make that happen. Do you want to make your employees more productive anywhere and anytime? Try mobile computing. Do you want to understand what’s really happening in your company so you can make informed decisions rather than just working by instinct? Big data analytics can do that. Do you want to kick the pants off your competitors through digital customer engagement or business model innovations? That can happen, too.

In my research on digital transformation, I’ve been amazed to see how many digital activities companies are undertaking, especially in non-digital industries. But despite all of this activity, relatively few companies were really doing it well. Why are some able to do amazing things with digital technologies, while others just do “more of the same”? What makes some firms “digital masters” while the majority of them lag behind?

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