There is no shortage of advice on the topic of how to be a successful leader--from top 10 lists to actual formulas to entire books. But after four years of research, one MIT professor says what you really need to be successful can be boiled down to four must-have skills.
Deborah Ancona, professor of organization studies at MIT Sloan School of Management, says leadership has changed from your grandfather's "command and control" model to a more "cultivate and coordinate" model. Particularly as data and real-time information become a bigger factor in business, you need to cultivate the skills required to take advantage of opportunities lurking in that raw information. With that in mind, Ancona developed the "Four Capabilities Leadership Framework," with fellow MIT Sloan faculty Tom Malone, Wanda Orlikowski, and Peter Senge.
"The greatest strength of a dynamic capability leader is their ability to filter through all the fast moving information that flows within and outside of the organization, recognize opportunities, and capitalize on them," Ancona writes on MIT's innovation@work blog.
Below, read the four skills Ancona thinks every leader needs to have.
Make sense of data.
In any business, leaders now have more raw information and data than ever before. The trick is to make "sense of the data in the context" of your company's goals--a skill she calls "sense and seizing." "Without this filtering process, data can become overwhelming and inhibit efficiency within an organization," she writes.
Map the data.
Understanding the data is one thing; you also need to be able to take the raw data and connect the dots to create a better product and better customer experience. "Mapping the data allows leaders to keep a constant pulse on what is going on both internally with organization dynamics, as well as externally, keeping a real-time log of customer experience," she writes.
Adapt quickly to changes in your market.
Before the Internet, identifying your competitors might have meant simply looking across the street or a few blocks away. Now you have competitors that have never existed before--and they are only a click away for your customers. As the business world is just a click away, companies need to be aware that they will have competitors that never existed before. Ancona says today's successful leaders let go of their assumptions, which lets them see changes in their markets. They know how to "reexamine their old framework of what defines their competition in time to gain valuable insights into the true source of competition," she writes.
Be a creator.
Now, with the wealth of information, analysis, and a new perspective, true leaders aim to invent something to benefit the consumer, Ancona says. Think of companies such as Zipcar and Amazon. Those businesses "consistently stayed open to new information regarding the customer experience, using it to innovate a new kind of retail service tailored to the customer," Ancona writes.