Great Leadership In The Digital Economy: Four Key Mindsets

Recently MIT Sloan, in partnership with Cognizant, published their 2020 Future of Leadership Global Executive Study and Research Project (click here for the deeper dive). An informative and insightful read, of which I’ll share one significant takeaway: four mindsets that will drive great leadership in the digital economy.

The researchers surveyed 4,394 global leaders from over 120 countries, conducted 27 executive interviews, and conducted focus groups with emerging leaders. The study indicates that as we move into the new decade and beyond, there are four key mindsets leaders will need for future success.


This mindset boils down to analytical capabilities. Having the ability to know what the numbers mean, and to solve big problems, is a critical skill. As the report states, “the producer mindset combines a focus on customers with a focus on analytics, digital savviness, execution, and outcomes. Producers use analytics to accelerate innovation to address shifts in customer preferences and improve customer and user experiences.” Know your numbers!


Leaders with this mindset think beyond just shareholder returns and pursue a higher purpose. They care deeply about their employees, customers, and communities, taking time to get things right. And they invest in a wide range of talent, not just high performers.

Susan Sobbott, former president of American Express Global Commercial Services, speaks to the human element of this mindset: “When I shared our financial goals with the team, I struggled. Financial goals were pretty much all that mattered. But for me, they felt empty, because I wanted to align purpose, principles, and profits. Yet I found myself talking about achieving a 15% growth rate in revenues or 10% growth in profits or a 20% reduction in costs. I wasn’t motivated by just a set of numbers, and I found it hard to believe the team would be. So, I began framing the financial goals as the outcome. I redirected our attention to how we could change the lives of a million customers through our work as a team to help our customers thrive. All of a sudden, I, myself, was sparked, which was contagious. The team lit up with pride, having a sense of determination through a clear intention. Motivation and creativity grew, which made hitting the numbers easier.” Always consider the human impact!


Connectors understand the importance of relationships, partnerships and networks – and how they can drive organizational effectiveness. In the digital age, this continues to become a vital element of business success. According to Lori Beer, Global Chief Information Officer at JP Morgan Chase, “if leaders do not master collaborative relationships, both inside and outside the company, it can limit production of the outcomes needed to win our customers’ business.” The ability to meaningfully connect, at both a micro and macro level, is vital to organizational performance!


According to the report, “explorers are curious and creative, and they operate well in ambiguous situations. They engage in continuous experimentation and learn by listening to many, and varied, voices. Organizations whose leaders have an explorer mindset often have cultural norms that tolerate, and indeed encourage, failure, reverse mentoring, and a deep curiosity about how the forces of digitalization are reshaping the competitive environment.” The research also indicated that the explorer mindset also shaped powerful narratives of the future, and were adept at building communities that rally behind the vision. Be curious and create a compelling story!

Be great today,