Five Rules for Leading in a Digital World

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In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world where the amount of data generated doubles every two years, are there any management secrets for maximizing your effectiveness?  A top researcher at MIT reveals “the five rules for leading in a digital world” and how to put them to work in your organization.

For years now, everyone has been talking about VUCA (or V-U-C-A), the U.S. military’s acronym for the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world we live in.  However, we now have “VUCA on steroids” as we try to keep up with the increasing speed of change in a business environment where the amount of data generated doubles every two years, leading to a 50-fold growth from 2010 to 2020.

To thrive in this landscape, organizations that have long been siloed and bureaucratic must become nimble and customer-centric, and command-and-control models must give way to distributed leadership.

However, many leaders fear to let go.  They don’t want to lose power, which is integral to their identity in an organization.  They also worry that chaos will ensue if they loosen the reins.  And they tend to shy away from the unfamiliar — they know much more about bureaucracies than about the emerging organizational forms that will take their place.

Such fears often result in inertia.  But leaders must evolve quickly or risk extinction.

In a rapidly changing world, people need to know who is leading them — that must be clearly articulated.  Those leaders must possess the skills to track an ever-shifting environment and cultivate those skills in others.  They need to create flexible teams that collaborate effectively with both internal and external partners.  They must inspire their organizations to solve big problems.  And they can’t do all this alone — they need to bring in adaptive leaders at all levels, giving them autonomy to innovate but providing guardrails to prevent chaos.  In their research at the MIT Leadership Center, Deborah Ancona and her colleagues found that executives and managers who follow five things are the best equipped to navigate what lies ahead.

Let’s examine each new rule behind this emerging leadership model.

Rule #1: Communicate your leadership...

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