4 Skills Every Leader Needs Now (from Inc Magazine)

There is no shortage of advice on the topic of how to be a successful leader–from top 10 liststo actual formulas to entire books. But after four years of research, one MIT professor says what you really need to be successful can be boiled down to four must-have skills.

Deborah Ancona, professor of organization studies at MIT Sloan School of Management, says leadership has changed from your grandfather’s “command and control” model to a more “cultivate and coordinate” model. Particularly as data and real-time information become a bigger factor in business, you need to cultivate the skills required to take advantage of opportunities lurking in that raw information. With that in mind, Ancona developed the “Four Capabilities Leadership Framework,” with fellow MIT Sloan faculty Tom Malone, Wanda Orlikowski, and Peter Senge.

“The greatest strength of a dynamic capability leader is their ability to filter through all the fast moving information that flows within and outside of the organization, recognize opportunities, and capitalize on them,” Ancona writes on MIT’s innovation@work blog.

Below, read the four skills Ancona thinks every leader needs to have.

Make sense of data.

In any business, leaders now have more raw information and data than ever before. The trick is to make “sense of the data in the context” of your company’s goals–a skill she calls “sense and seizing.” “Without this filtering process, data can become overwhelming and inhibit efficiency within an organization,” she writes.

Map the data.

Understanding the data is one thing; you also need to be able to take the raw data and connect the dots to create a better product and better customer experience. “Mapping the data allows leaders to keep a constant pulse on what is going on both internally with organization dynamics, as well as externally, keeping a real-time log of customer experience,” she writes.

Adapt quickly to changes in your market.

Before the Internet, identifying your competitors might have meant simply looking across the street or a few blocks away. Now you have competitors that have never existed before–and they are only a click away for your customers. As the business world is just a click away, companies need to be aware that they will have competitors that never existed before. Ancona says today’s successful leaders let go of their assumptions, which lets them see changes in their markets. They know how to “reexamine their old framework of what defines their competition in time to gain valuable insights into the true source of competition,” she writes.

Be a creator.

Now, with the wealth of information, analysis, and a new perspective, true leaders aim to invent something to benefit the consumer, Ancona says. Think of companies such as Zipcar and Amazon. Those businesses “consistently stayed open to new information regarding the customer experience, using it to innovate a new kind of retail service tailored to the customer,” Ancona writes.



Guiding Leadership Principles of Successful Entrepreneurship

By: Fran Tarkenton, Founder & CEO, GoSmallBiz.com
(Originally Published: 24 July 2013)

No matter what type of business you’re in, there’s one thing that’s certain: the life of an entrepreneur is ridden with challenges. It is easy to get caught up in the rise and fall of the larger macroeconomic environment or the successes and failures of everyday life as a business owner. An article by Pratik Dholakiya got me thinking about how to set goals, stay focused, and achieve success.

You Hold the Keys to Success, Not the Economy

The success of your business is not a direct product of any external factors. You cannot allow yourself to be distracted by the inevitable ups and downs of the market. Whether businesses around you are failing or have never seen better days, at the end of the day business is a game of numbers. As long as you’re meeting prospects and making sales, your business is going to survive regardless of how the market is performing. Stay focused, and determination will drive you to success.

Embrace Technology

Technology is an unavoidable aspect of doing business in today’s world. Not only is it a lot of fun to conduct business over your new Smartphone or tablet device, but it is also extremely practical. Two things you should look for when considering whether to acquire new technology are speed and portability. If you can save time and conduct business with ease while off-site, you can’t afford to ignore new technology. As technology continues to progress, an entrepreneur must stay current in order to maximize efficiency.
Customers Are People Too

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in the sale and forget that a business’s mission is to serve the customer. Offer a product or service that people either want or need, and there is no need to exaggerate your sales pitch. High sales volume will help you get your business off the ground, but repeat customers and referrals will keep you around. Treat people well, and you will be successful.

Selfless Sells

It takes a lot of work to turn a business idea into a product or service that garners a sale. There is no doubt that you deserve a lot of credit for all that you have done to get to this point. But guess what: it doesn’t matter. The customer doesn’t want to hear about your long hours spent recalibrating the latest malfunctions during the wee hours of the morning in your garage studio. Selfless sells, ego does not.

Retain Your Vision

Every business starts with a vision. Whether it’s turning the world on its heels over the latest technology or selling out to the company of your dreams, vision is a strong indicator of motivation and driver of success in business. Once you’ve achieved your initial goals, focus on either retaining or reworking that vision. Dream big and your potential to achieve will grow.

Have a Plan

Whether or not you’ve nailed down your financial projections and drafted a beautiful description of your business to go along with your 70-page business plan, you should have a solid plan to base your actions off of. Whether you prefer to lay it out in detail or in brief, a written plan will ensure that you are targeting something definite and trying to remember a great idea that you had a few months ago. Ink lasts, thoughts don’t.

Be Studious

In addition to knowing your business inside and out, you should make it a priority to learn as much as possible about your industry, your competitors and of course, your customers. A knowledgeable business owner will be able to sell his or her product or service with confidence, and that’s one thing money can’t buy.

The Charity That Just Gives Money To Poor People


August 23, 2013 3:24 AM

There’s a charity called GiveDirectly that just gives money to poor people in Kenya. There are no strings attached. People can spend the money on whatever they want, and they never have to pay it back.

The idea behind this is straight out of Econ 101: Poor people know what they need, and if you give them money, they can buy it. But many people in the charity world are skeptical of what GiveDirectly’s doing. They say people will waste the money, or become dependent.

We recently traveled to Kenya to see how the program was going. We talked to a man named Bernard Omondi who used the money — $1,000, paid in two installments — to buy a used motorcycle. He uses it as a taxi, charging his neighbors to ferry them around. Before he had the motorcycle, he says, he sometimes worked as a day laborer, but often couldn’t find any work at all.

We talked to several other people who started small businesses. One family bought a mill to grind corn for their neighbors; another started selling soap and cooking oil.

All of the people who got money from GiveDirectly lived in mud-walled houses with grass roofs. Many of them spent part of the money on metal roofs, to replace his old, grass roofs. As it turns out, grass roofs are not only leaky, they’re also oddly expensive — they have to be repaired several times a year, which requires buying a special kind of grass. Buying a metal roof costs more up front, but it’s cheaper in the long run.

GiveDirectly uses a Kenyan mobile money system that makes it cheap and easy to send money to anyone with a cell phone. (The group gives cheap phones to people who don’t already have them.) Mobile money is spreading to other countries, and the people who started GiveDirectly think giving cash could become one of the major ways people in richer countries help people in the developing world.

If giving cash does prove to work, it will raise an awkward question about some of the other charities out there: Maybe they’d do more good if they took the money they’re spending and just gave it to the poor.

We’ll have more on that question that later today on All Things Considered.

What Inspires Me: Game-Changing People Everywhere (posted on LinkedIn by Richard Branson)

My professional inspiration has no separation from my personal inspiration: it is people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference to other people’s lives. I am fortunate to come across quite a few of these game-changing people, and the desire to help (and keep up with them!) is what drives me.

As Steve Jobs famously said:

The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

There are lots of these crazy ones hard at work today trying to make the world a better place, but there is always room for more! Nowadays I spend most of my time working with our not-for-profit foundation, Virgin Unite, and am honoured to work alongside inspirational people taking on challenges from climate change with the Carbon War Room to conflict-resolution with The Elders.

In The B Team, we are stimulated by the desire to ensure business has a purpose beyond profit, also focusing upon people and the planet. I think it is all of our responsibility to try and leave the planet in a better condition than we found it. A good way to find inspiration — and to have a positive impact — is to think about your grandchildren (whether you have any yet or not). What type of world do you want them to inherit?

Elsewhere within the Virgin Group, there are countless people who provide endless inspiration, not least the pioneers at Virgin Galactic. The whole area of space exploration can be held up as an example of what can be achieved with action and ambition. I have looked to the stars for inspiration since I was a child, and hope to be inspired by looking back at earth from space one day soon.

Back on this planet, there is always another exciting new idea to get my teeth stuck into and find inspiration. I get a lot of business proposals and they are usually fascinating to hear, as you never know where the next game-changing idea will come from. Yet it is the personal tales of people I meet that are most inspiring. Thanks to social media, I hear plenty more stirring stories from people all around the globe. Often I am more struck by the potential of an individual than their idea. As I said recently, if you find the right people to work with, you can’t go wrong.

If you are creative, then inspiration can come from anywhere. Creators are never fully satisfied. They can always be better. They are determined to change the game for good. I would love to hear what motivates you, too. Where do you find inspiration?


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