How to be a Disruptive Leader

Disruption and leadership might seem opposing forces. However, in today’s competitive environment they need to be reconciled to ensure your success. Competitive pressure to innovate and shake up established markets is too powerful for companies to disregard. If their leaders don’t shake companies from within, they’ll struggle to compete in the wider world.

Disruptive leadership isn’t about change for the sake of change. It’s about integrating change into the day to day operations of the company. Here are five ways the most dynamic leaders embrace disruption and radiate it through their entire companies.

1. They Pursue the Truth

Disruptive leaders are always testing to make sure their companies’ strategies are still effective, and say so when they aren’t. The more rapidly changes take place, the more critical it becomes for leaders to take all their employees with them on the journey. The truth may hurt, but it’s often the shock of that truth that will galvanise people into taking actions and making decisions they might not have contemplated otherwise.

2. They Guide Others Through Chaos

Leaders need to be comfortable with the reality that in the midst of change, the future is often unclear. As a company enters uncharted waters, it can be scary for everyone involved. This is where the old “steady hand on the tiller” idea of leadership is still applicable, not to guide a company along a familiar course during difficult times, but to keep the ship steady as it steers in a new direction. A big piece of that is communication. Leaders should not use the line “exciting new opportunities”, but instead explain in concrete, practical terms how the changes under way align with the business’s objectives.

3. They’re Decisive Disruptive leaders are decisive

Leading by consensus has its place in the business world, but you can’t adopt a “management by discussion” approach when the competitive environment is rapidly changing. Even if some decisions are based on “gut feeling” disruptive leaders tell their teams precisely what they want, when, and why, then help them to make it happen.

4. They Break the Rules and Write New Ones

The word “normal” doesn’t exist in a disruptive leader’s vocabulary. Once something has become normal, it’s probably obsolete. The market is constantly changing, and the aim is always to be at its forefront rather than floundering in its wake. Sometimes that means breaking the rules; indeed, disruptive leaders nurture scepticism of best practices. Embracing disruption means there’s always a new normal, and for as long as it lasts, it’s up to leaders to communicate what it is. If employees don’t know the current rules of the game, the company can’t play by them as a team.

5. They Thrive on Uncertainty

Leading disruptive innovation means getting used to incredible levels of uncertainty. You never know how something will work until you try it. Changing your assumptions and adapting your plans depending on your results is the standard practice of the most effective disruptive leaders. Innovate and iterate. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what’s happened the first time your company tries something new. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll be better informed the second time.

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