Category: Management and Leadership

Leadership lessons from Henry V and other reflections from the FRED Forum 2014

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 19 days ago

By MIT Sloan Executive Education's Executive Director, Dr. Peter Hirst

Leadership conferences are a booming trade, but few provide such a memorable experience year after year for me as the FRED Forum - an annual event that brings together leading innovators and senior executives responsible for developing leaders from the business, education, social and government sectors. Typically, this year’s Forum, which ran September 10-12th in Vancouver, Canada offered plenty to inspire and delight, but certain sessions and speakers made the most profound impression and gave me much to think about.

William Shakespeare: Master playwright and motivational author

From city parks to the world's most venerable theaters, Shakespeare's plays continue to resonate with audiences for more than four centuries. What makes them so enduring is the author's keen insight into the human condition - what makes us tick. And while the Bard's plays are filled with strong leaders, none are as prominent as Henry V.

Richard Olivier, Founder and Artistic Director of Olivier Mythodrama (and the son of the legendary Lawrence) used Henry V as the foundation for his deeply engaging Inspirational Leadership session, which led me to re-discover how powerful arts-driven ways can be in creating reflection and providing sources of insights into human behavior. Olivier's Mythodrama technique is a synthesis of tools and techniques drawn from the arts and sciences of psychology, philosophy, drama and organizational development; delivered with unique impact by employing theatre skills and myth. 

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U.S. Taxes: Try a carrot instead of a stick

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 26 days ago

In late September, the U.S. Treasury Department proposed new regulations to help curb corporate inversions—the merging of a U.S.-based company with a foreign company so that the foreign company becomes the parent of the combined operations, resulting in significant tax benefits.

Inversions have captured headlines and mindshare since late August, when Burger King Worldwide merged with the Canadian chain Tim Hortons. Once joined, the company will be the world’s largest quick service restaurant company. The firm will also be headquartered in Canada, which has a lower tax rate than the U.S. While Burger King’s expected inversion brought the issue into the general consciousness, many other companies have similar stories. According to Reuters, 76 U.S. corporations have completed inversions since 1983; 47 of those deals have occurred since 2004. Some of these companies are obscure, others well known. The name brands that have essentially relocated as a result of inversions include Fruit of the Loom, Seagate Technology, Accenture, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, Herbalife International, Tyco Electronics, Covidien, and Medtronic 

MIT Sloan Professor of Accounting Michelle Hanlon recently surveyed 600 tax executives to better understand the impact of U.S. tax policy on corporate decisions about investment location and profit repatriation. Hanlon’s research showed that both the tax and financial accounting effects lead to greater foreign direct investment by U.S. companies and lower repatriation [of taxable funds.]

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Social media professionals need leadership skills

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 9 days ago

The “Twitterverse” is awash in corporate brands publishing inappropriate, insensitive and/or irrelevant tweets. As of this writing, the latest corporate Twitter embarrassment happened to DiGiorno Pizza, a U.S.-based frozen pizza brand owned by Nestlé. Someone on the DiGiorno social media team jumped on the hashtag #WhyIStayed—used in discussions about domestic abuse—responding most unfortunately: “You had pizza.” While the team quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, the error was very public—and, as with most Twitter gaffes, highlighted a recurring problem with Twitter: a corporate brand’s social media team ignoring context.

One common response to any social media gaffe is to assume the brand’s social media team is comprised of interns or millennials—those “digital native” workers who grew up with texting, tweeting, and posting to Facebook walls. In many cases, that assumption is correct. Those newer workers often lack the business experience and leadership skills necessary to maintain and promote an on-brand, relevant, and appropriate social presence. 

The answer? Education. Millennials should learn, adopt, and cultivate key leadership practices in an effort to become savvier business professionals. In the article, “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader,” MIT Sloan Professor Deborah Ancona presents the four leadership capabilities all organizations require: sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing. While all these skills are extremely valuable, the skill of sensemaking is the most relevant to those professionals working in social media.

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The odd man out may make for a better team

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 23 days ago

Understanding dispersed team dynamics is a timely consideration, as non-traditional teams are becoming more and more commonplace. Corporations are cutting down on real estate costs, offering employees more flexible work models, and investing in expertise located anywhere and everywhere around the world, resulting in geographically dispersed collaborations. While collocated teams (every team member working on the same site) may have the advantage over dispersed teams in many respects, studies show that more thoughtful configuration of dispersed teams may actually give them the upper hand.

“Within dispersed teams, there is first and foremost a mutual knowledge problem,” says JoAnne Yates, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management, who teaches in the new, upcoming Executive Education program, Communication and Persuasion in the Digital Age. “When you’re collocated in the same building, you are aware of what your team members know and do not know. And you understand context. When working across distances, this is not necessarily true, and there are all kinds of failures that can come from that. You may not, for example, understand delays in communication. When you don’t get a response right away and you’re expecting one, you make all kinds of assumptions, and most are disparaging about the other party. Then perhaps you find out there was a holiday—like Patriot’s Day, which occurs only in Massachusetts. It’s important to have ways of understanding the specific context your colleagues are working in and of establishing trust and common ground.”

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Changing the mind of a leader—literally

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 8 days ago

Today’s most effective leaders are skilled at making sense of complex environments. They are continually moving away from "command and control" leadership models to a "cultivate and coordinate" approach. These leaders harness “aha” moments and turn them into business innovations. And they take risks on a regular basis in order to revise their map of what’s really going on in their organization and the marketplace in which they operate. These leaders are internally powered by an innovative mindset that quite truly changes the playing field in which all businesses operate.


Then there are the rest of us—the vast majority of people in management and leadership positions—who fear failure and whose ability to innovate is underutilized; whose safety-first approach to doing business has likely served us well in the past but is now holding us back. 

What if you’re the kind of leader who feels stuck in old ways of doing things? What if you’d rather not be? Is it really possible to change your mindset—or the mindsets of your team?

Management experts are looking to neuroscience for the answer, and the answer appears to be a resounding “YES.” By probing the neural roots of behavior, brain science is helping leaders create change in themselves and in others and may indeed have great implications for the world of work. 

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It’s time to rethink wages

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 28 days ago

For the last year or so, there’s been a significant amount of news coverage around the wages paid to low-income earners, such as those working at fast food outlets and in retail stores. There have been public protests, calls for boycotts, and legislation to raise the minimum wage in some states.

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Corporate boards miss out when they don’t include women

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 3 days ago

Shirley Leung, Business Columnist for The Boston Globe has written extensively—and frequently—about the dearth of women on corporate boards. In her piece, “Across Health Care Board Rooms, That’s Madam Chairman to You,” she discusses the growing role of women on health care boards (nearly a third of Massachusetts-based hospitals have a woman running the board for the first time) and she compares the trend to the fact that only three percent of Fortune 500 companies have female board chairs.

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The big data skill set

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 11 days ago

A while ago, Professor Tom Davenport, Fellow with the MIT Center for Digital Business, proclaimed that “data scientist” would be the “sexiest” job in the 21st century. This topic was discussed at The 2014 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, both during the session moderated by Davenport, “Big Data, Analytics and Insights,” and at one of the Big Data “Birds of a Feather” luncheon tables.

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