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Deborah Ancona

Deborah Ancona

Deborah Ancona is the Seley Distinguished Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Faculty Director of the MIT Leadership Center.

Distributed leadership

2010 will continue to be a year of uncertainty as the economy, health care, climate change, terrorism, water shortages, H1N1, unemployment and other factors will continue to wreak havoc with global corporations. Uncertainty creates many negative reactions: stress, rigidity, centralization, need, and erratic action. Leaders need to be very active to counteract these reactions. How?

First, leaders need to communicate and reassure. They need to be visible, tell the truth, say what they know, and what they don't know, and say it over and over again. And they need to do this with all stakeholders. Without clear communication rumor replaces reality and people spend more time trying to protect themselves than in moving the organization forward.

Second, leaders need to keep their fingers on the pulse of change in the environment--what's going on out there? Then intelligence needs to translate into action. If customers are looking for bargains, then lower-priced products need to be forthcoming. If legislation on the environment is being passed, then investments in alternative energy may make sense. To avoid the "deer in the headlights" syndrome organizations should create scenarios of the future and practice how they would respond.

Third, leaders need to engage all employees. Entrepreneurial activity needs to be encouraged--people close to the customer or new technologies may have more innovative ideas than executive leadership. But, to avoid chaos employees need to understand the vision and the business model so that they can align new ideas with strategic initiatives. People also need to take on risk mitigation so that new ideas don't expose the organization to excess risk, e.g., derivatives.

This is a time for leaders to relate, make sense of changing conditions, act, and distribute leadership throughout the organization.

By Deborah Ancona

 |  January 6, 2010; 5:47 AM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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