While serving as executive director of the MIT Leadership Center from 2014-2019, we focused on building challenge-driven leaders at every level of an organization. In “How to Cultivate Leadership that is Honed to Solve Problems” (Strategy+Business, 2017) and “The Power of Leaders Who Focus on Solving Problems” Deborah Ancona and I synthesized findings from in-depth interviews, assessments of institutional artifacts and data from companies that employ MIT alumni. We took a deep dive into the patterns that emerged and defined the highly effective style as Challenge-Driven or Problem-Led Leadership. This approach can help people solve big, complex problems in a changing world and is critical in highly innovative and creative environments.

  • They choose challenge over trappings.
  • They let problems lead.
  • They choose collaboration.
  • They step up and step out.
  • They work the problem tirelessly.
  • They do what the data say.
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What is Challenge-Driven Research?

What does it mean to be a challenge-driven leader?

Becoming a challenge-driven leader in a world of change