THE FIVE KEY CAPABILITIES OF EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP
Extracted from: “The Five Key Capabilities of Effective Leadership”. Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management, and Henrik Bresman, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, INSEAD | November 14, 201
While leadership is about knowing who you are, it’s also about your actions and, ultimately, your impact. These five capabilities span a wide-ranging set of skills – from the intellectual and interpersonal to the conceptual and creative – required in today’s business environment. However, it is important to dispel the common myth, which has crushed the soul of many an executive, that leaders should possess all of these skills. No matter how exceptional, it is truly rare to see a leader exhibit more than two or three.
Effective leaders know what their strong suit is and do not fall for the myth of the omniscient leader. They do not delude themselves into thinking that the success of the whole organization solely rests on their shoulders. Organizational success resides in distributed leadership, or the fine art of finding and working with people who can compensate for one’s weaknesses.
THE FIVE LEADERSHIP CAPABILITIES
Are you open to new trends and information? Do you enjoy learning from others? Can you create order from uncertainty? Do you experiment to learn how the organization will respond?
If so, sense-making may be your key strength. Effective leaders are keenly aware of what is going on in this chaotic world. They know how to keep their finger on the pulse of the external world. They realize that new, better methods may come from outsiders. These leaders don’t just hunt for new information – they integrate it into a cohesive framework that helps others understand what the next move should be.
Are you attuned to other people’s feelings and assumptions? Are you expert at influencing and negotiating? Do you enjoy coaching?
You may excel at relating, which is about developing supportive relationships and effective ties, both within and outside an organization. Relating can be thought of as the glue that brings people together. Ever since the birth of matrix organizations, leaders at all levels have had to fine-tune their persuasion skills. This starts with a strong ability to listen to others and understand what makes them tick. Only then can these leaders rally support for their own ideas. In this complex world, commandand-control leadership is no longer considered effective.
Do you enjoy developing a vision about things that inspire you? Are you good at creating a vision that uplifts others?
If so, you may be a master of visioning, the art of painting a compelling picture of the future. Effective leaders often use images, metaphors and stories to win people over. They are also able to link their vision to an organization’s core values and mission, imparting optimism in the process. They may not be able to fully describe how the vision can be achieved, but by creating a sense of urgency, they can inspire others to think up ways to effect change. While sense-making describes what is, visioning produces a compelling image of what could be. More importantly, it dynamically motivates action.
Are you a truly creative yet practical person? Do you like exploring alternative ways of doing things?
Are you a logistics expert who always knows how to get things done? If so, inventing may be your main calling card as a leader. Inventing is about devising ways to bring a vision to life, either through structures or processes. Inventing allows abstract ideas to materialize. Leaders with strong inventing skills are experts at reorganizing the way work is done, identifying key performance indicators and measuring progress. As the ones who “keep the trains running”, they are not afraid of making tough decisions when reality demands it. At the same time, such leaders create a culture of learning so that both innovation and execution occur.
This key capability is both the condition and the result of the other four. It is about gaining respect from others by keeping commitments and operating with a strong sense of purpose. Credible leaders walk the talk; their actions match their words. The five leadership capabilities we described do not represent a checklist of things every leader should hope – let alone expect – to have. As Bruce Chizen, the former CEO of Adobe, aptly said about top leadership: “The job is simply too big for any one person.” However, effective leaders should know their strengths and weaknesses, so they can find people who complement them.
Ada Montoya, Business Development Manager.
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