Deborah Ancona

Seley Distinguished Professor of Management
Professor of Organization Studies
Founding Faculty Director of the 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

  • The Science of Change with MIT Professor, Dr Deborah Ancona

    MIT Professor, Dr Deborah Ancona speaks about the Immunity to Change – a theory pioneered by Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. This short episode gives you the insight you need to...

  • The Overlooked Key to Leading Through Chaos

    Managers who focus on developing sensemaking capabilities can make better decisions in a complex and unpredictable world.

  • 5 Things Leaders Need To Do In An Uncertain World

    The world is changing, and leaders need to adapt. Whether the disruption is due to pandemic, climate change, or economic crisis, they need to evolve their leadership behaviors to survive. How do...

  • [Innovation@Work Webinar] Thriving In Uncertainty: 5 Leadership Activities For A Nimble Response

    Organizations are facing an accelerated, interconnected and volatile stream of new challenges daily. As leaders you need to exude calm and empathy while simultaneously getting the organization to...

  • The True Heroes of COVID-19 and How They're Filling the Void at the Top

    While we can certainly lament the failings of our national architecting leaders, we are extremely fortunate that many other leadership heroes at the state and local levels have stepped in to fill...

  • Science Reveals Traits Every Founder Must Cultivate

    Deborah Ancona discusses how leaders can build on their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses or flaws using the 4-CAP+ Model.

  • How Toxic Is Your Workplace Exactly? Quite Toxic If Your Managers Display These 3 Traits

    Look for the "dark triad" according to Deborah Ancona to identify toxic leaders.

  • Are You an Entrepreneurial, Enabling or Architecting Leader?

    Deborah Ancona discusses some of the various leadership styles.

  • Science Reveals The Traits Every Leader Must Cultivate

    Deborah Ancona discusses the four capabilities that every leader must reflect on.

  • 3 Ways to Build a Culture of Collaborative Innovation

    All organizations have the ability to be smarter than the sum of their members’ intelligence and talent. Deborah Ancona provides a handful of practical steps to boost collective intelligence.


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 Mar 8-10, 2021 | Jun 15-17, 2021

Leadership in an Exponentially Changing World (self-paced online) Jan 27-Mar 16, 2021 | Mar 31-May 18, 2021 | May 26-Jul 13, 2021 | Aug 11-Sep 28, 2021 | Oct 20-Dec 7, 2021

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+".

Thriving in Uncertainty

Organizations are facing an accelerated, interconnected and volatile stream of new challenges daily. As leaders you need to exude calm and empathy while simultaneously getting the organization to respond in a nimble and innovative way. Here Deborah Ancona reviews some of the leadership lessons gleaned from research at the MIT Leadership Center on leadership in an exponentially changing world.

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.