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MIT Leadership Center

4 Capabilities Leadership Framework

Developing Leaders at All Levels
At the core of leadership development and research at MIT Sloan is a pragmatic, research-based model of how successful leaders at every level actually work.

The 4 Capabilities Leadership Framework (4-Cap) provides the framework for teaching leadership and for leadership practice in general. As leadership moves away from a “command and control” model to a more “cultivate and coordinate” model, the way that leadership is taught must change, too.

Developed over a four-year period by Professors Deborah Ancona, Tom Malone, and Wanda Orlikowski, with Senior Lecturer Peter Senge, and tested in diverse real world settings, the 4-Cap is a powerful tool for understanding and integrating the four critical components of leadership.

The 4-Cap, as described in research on Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty, defines these components as follows.

  • Sensemaking: making sense of the world around us, coming to understand the context in which we are operating.
  • Relating: developing key relationships within and across organizations.
  • Visioning: creating a compelling picture of the future.
  • Inventing: designing new ways of working together to realize the vision.

Moreover, the 4-Cap seeks to help leaders discover their unique Change Signature—the leader’s credo and characteristic way of creating change. Each leader’s signature draws upon his or her values, skills, experience, tactics, and personality in order to build trust, respect, and authenticity.