Deborah L. Ancona

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Deborah L. Ancona

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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 MIT 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.  

Honors

Ancona wins MIT's 2022 Seegal prize

Ancona wins Jamieson Prize

Publications

"Family Ghosts in the Executive Suite."

Ancona, Deborah, and Dennis N.T. Perkins. Harvard Business Review, January 2022.

"Shifting Team Research after COVID-19: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Change."

Ancona, Deborah L., Henrik Bresman, and Mark Mortensen. Journal of Management Studies Vol. 58, No. 1 (2021): 287-291.

"The Overlooked Key to Leading Through Chaos."

Ancona, Deborah L., Michele Williams, and Gisela Gerlach. MIT Sloan Management Review, September 8, 2020.

"Five Rules for Leading in a Digital World."

Ancona, Deborah. MIT Sloan Management Review, January 2020.

"Walking the Line Between Creativity and Chaos."

Ancona, Deborah, and Kate Isaacs. Latin Trade,, October 20, 2019.

"How to Give Your Team the Right Amount of Autonomy."

Ancona, Deborah, and Kate Isaacs. Harvard Business Review, July 11, 2019.

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Executive Education

Executive Education Course

Distributed Leadership

Organizations must innovate and adapt quickly to survive and thrive in an exponentially changing world. Business agility is key. Command-and-control bureaucracies are too rigid and slow to keep pace with rapid change; today’s leaders must be nimble and capable of removing organizational and cultural barriers to change. This nimble leadership course will help you architect and lead a nimble company by freeing people to innovate while maintaining strategic alignment and accountability—without imposing bureaucracy.

  • Nov 3-4, 2022
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Executive Education Course

Leadership in an Exponentially Changing World

This online short course provides a step-by-step guide to the 4-CAPS+ Leadership Framework, developed by Faculty Director Deborah Ancona and her colleagues at MIT. The framework provides key insights into the skills required for effective leadership.

  • Oct 19-Dec 6, 2022
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