After millennia of analysis, the consensus is that there is no Holy Grail of leadership. Still, when certain traits manifest themselves in cadence, they give individuals a natural flair for good management. Professor Deborah Ancona of MIT’s Sloan School of Management has formulated a model of leadership she calls the 4-CAP+. It refers to four prime capabilities – making sense, visioning, relating and inventing – coupled with a fifth, credibility.

Here is how they work in conjunction and how you can adopt them to improve your organization through better leadership.

Making Sense

Self-descriptive, this may also be expressed as “context.” Ancona describes it as “keeping your fingers on the pulse.” It can include building rapport within and outside your company, recognizing market trends as they emerge, and anticipating shifts from the competition. Making sense is an all-encompassing state of mind that condenses and processes vast amounts of information before identifying what needs to change and how.

Key Takeaway: A leader that can make sense of the labyrinth that is the modern business world becomes the fulcrum around which the entire organization flourishes.


Where making sense is an appreciation of the current situation, vision is the future. Projecting an end result is simply one component of this; it is incumbent upon the leader to map out the journey between the two states. The strategies may vary from simple and minor course corrections across the organization or a bold overhaul and even a reimagining of the company’s mission statement.

Key Takeaway: Leaders that exemplify this trait go beyond describing an end result, they infuse the people around them with a desire to be a part of the journey.


Communication is the central element of any relationship, business or personal. Relating in a leadership context involves connecting with a diverse range of personalities across many levels of management. Because no two roles nor any two individuals are exactly alike, this is a polymorphous trait where the leader adapts to the situation. It can take the form of mentoring with one colleague and acting as a sounding board with another.

Key Takeaway: The people factor can make or break a business. Leadership built on a foundation of meaningful relationships is invaluable in both good times and in crises.


Stagnation is suicide. After the first three components of 4-CAP+ have laid the groundwork, it is the ability to innovate solutions in a rapidly-evolving environment that produces real-world results. A good leader’s knack for inventing transcends just the individual – it is also evident in how they get their teams to think laterally and create fearlessly.

Key Takeaway: Leading from the front means forging a new path in unknown, untested territory. Transformative leaders are trailblazers whose inventiveness inspires as much as their inventions.


Credibility was a late addition to Ancona’s original 4-CAP model, accounting for the ‘+’ in 4-CAP+. She describes it as “both the condition and the result of the other four.”

As she explains, “Your ability to act with integrity requires gaining respect from others by keeping commitments and operating with a strong sense of purpose. Credible leaders walk the talk. Their actions match their words. Do you want to be a leader, or do you want to get ahead? Sometimes these go together, but sometimes it takes courage to just do the right thing.”

At DeSantis Trusted Advisors, we provide consulting, advisory, and coaching services to businesses and their stakeholders with the goal of creating pathways to success. Contact me today to learn more.