Deborah Ancona

Seley Distinguished Professor of Management
Professor of Organization Studies
Faculty Director, MIT Leadership Center


Deborah Ancona


Deborah Ancona is the Seley Distinguished Professor of Management, a Professor of Organization Studies, and the Founder of the MIT Leadership Center at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Her pioneering research into how successful teams operate has highlighted the critical importance of managing outside, as well as inside, the team’s boundary.  This research directly led to the concept of X-Teams as a vehicle for driving innovation within large organizations.  Ancona’s work also focuses on the concept of distributed leadership and on the development of research-based tools, practices, and teaching/coaching models that enable organizations to foster creative leadership at every level. 

She is the author of the book, X-Teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate, and Succeed (Harvard Business School Press) and the related article, “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader” (Harvard Business Review).  In addition to X-Teams, her studies of team performance have also been published in the Administrative Science Quarterly, the Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, and the Sloan Management Review.  Her previous book, Managing for the Future: Organizational Behavior and Processes (South-Western College Publishing), centers on the skills and processes needed in today’s diverse and changing organization.  Ancona has served as a consultant on leadership and innovation to companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bose, Takeda, Li & Fung, OCP, Accenture, ASA and has served on the Board of the Penn Graduate School of Education and the working group of the Canadian Council of Academies.

Ancona holds a BA and an MS in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in management from Columbia University.   


Faculty Media

  • How to Give Your Team the Right Amount of Autonomy

    It’s possible to create alignment and control — while also giving your employees more freedom — by putting guardrails in place.

  • The 3 Types of Leaders of Innovative Companies

    Highly innovative organizations have three kinds of leaders: entrepreneurial, enabling, and architecting ones according to research from Deborah Ancona.

  • Nimble Leadership

    Nobody really recommends command-and-control leadership anymore. But no fully formed alternative has emerged. So mature companies often struggle to balance the need for innovation with the need for...

  • How You Can Tell If Your boss Has the Toxic ‘Dark Triad’ of Personality Traits

    Deborah Ancona disusses the signs to look for (and avoid).

  • Fixing a Toxic Work Culture: Guarding Against the ‘Dark Triad’

    Toxic leaders and employees can have a major impact on your workforce’s morale, productivity, and turnover — and your bottom line. But there are some red flags that can help pick out a toxic person...

  • How Leaders Can Maximize Their Impact

    It is rather difficult – perhaps even impossible – for a single manager to wear all hats equally well. Effective leaders need to know whether their ‘people hat’ or ‘P&L hat’ fits most comfortably.

  • Deborah Ancona & Hal Gregersen: What does it mean to be a leader?

    We need a new way of thinking about leadership and a new approach to leading, say MIT Sloan's Deborah Ancona and Hal Gregersen. They suggest what is called, "challenge-driven leadership." We...

  • How to Cultivate Leadership That Is Honed to Solve Problems

    In this article, Deborah Ancona and Hal Gregersen discuss how to chieve breakthroughs by bringing together experts who love challenges.

  • The Pros and Cons Of New Unconventional Leadership Styles

    Company culture is changing, and some managers are experimenting with out-of-the-norm methods. Here's what works and what doesn't.

  • Do Good Leaders Make Good Managers?

    Prof. Deborah Ancona of MIT Sloan elaborates on the 4-Cap Leadership Model.


Contact Information

Office: E62-434
Phone: 617-253-0568
Fax: 617-253-2660
Support Staff
Name: Ieva Paulauskaite
Phone: (617) 324-7368

Teaches In

Transforming Your Leadership Strategy Oct 24-25, 2019 | Jul 14-15, 2020 | Nov 5-6, 2020

Neuroscience for Leadership Oct 3-4, 2019 | Mar 26-27, 2020 | Oct 15-16, 2020

Credible leaders walk the talk: An updated leadership framework

Decades of research by MIT Sloan Professor and Founder of the MIT Leadership Center Deborah Ancona and her colleagues have uncovered the four key capabilities of effective leaders—sensemaking, visioning, relating, and inventing. Known previously as the “4-CAP model,” this framework has recently been updated to add “building credibility” to its center and has been renamed "4-CAP+".

Leading in a World of Uncertainty

In this webinar, Deborah Ancona introduces MIT's unique leadership perspective—a powerful, innovative approach to executive leadership that will help you make your organization more knowledge-driven and more innovative.

Professor Deborah Ancona on Transforming Your Leadership Strategy

How to Cultivate Leadership That Is Honed to Solve Problems

MIT Sloan's Deborah Ancona and Hal Gregersen explain how to achieve breakthroughs by bringing together experts who love challenges.