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Brain circuits

The five dimensions of ambidextrous leadership

Published 27 January 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

Achieving the dual goals of making your current business more effective and efficient while developing new revenue streams for the future is a challenge for leaders across all organizations. We have studied companies both large and small across multiple industries to see how successful leaders manage this. We call these people ambidextrous because they can engage in opposing behaviors as the situation dictates. We have identified five different dimensions that require ambidexterity.

Leading strategy: Leaders need to be able to take advantage of short-term market opportunities within the confines of the existing strategy, but at the same time they must have the capacity to let go of that strategy to build a completely new one, and to know which approach to use when. 

Leading execution: This is the ability to drive flawless execution, replicating best-in-class routines, while at the same time being able to let go of those routines in order to experiment.

Leading stakeholders: This is the ability to know how to follow formal procedures for dealing with stakeholders but possess the capacity to work this informal network to achieve mutual goals.

Leading people: When managing people, ambidextrous leaders have both the capacity to lead from the front, telling their people what to do, but also to step back and function as a coach.

Leading self: This is the capacity to make big courageous leaps, while also having the ability to put yourself back in an equilibrium to find your quiet center. 

It is uncommon to find leaders who display ambidexterity in all five dimensions (only 10% of leaders we studied succeeded in doing this), but you can learn how to do it. We will address how in part two.


Further reading: 

How ambidextrous leaders deliver performance and progress fast by Misiek Piskorski and Ric Roi


Misiek Piskorski

Mikolaj Jan Piskorski

Professor of Digital Strategy, Analytics and Innovation and the Dean of IMD Asia and Oceania

Mikołaj Jan Piskorski, who often goes by the name Misiek, is a Professor of Digital Strategy, Analytics and Innovation and the Dean of IMD Asia and Oceania. Professor Piskorski is an expert on digital strategy, platform strategy, and the process of digital business transformation. He is Program Director of the Digital Strategy Course.

Ric Roi

Richard Roi

Professor of Leadership and Organization at IMD

Ric Roi is Professor of Leadership and Organization at IMD. He is a senior business psychologist and advises boards and CEOs on matters related to board renewal, CEO succession, top team effectiveness and leadership transitions.


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