Disruptive leadership is a trendy new business phrase we often hear about. We’ve managed to grab a quick chat with Craig to delve behind the headline.
1. What is disruptive leadership when it’s at home?
The two words disruptive and leadership could be viewed as a conflict of interest. When you think about leadership being disruptive it doesn’t seem to fit but when you dig below the surface it’s about a kind of leadership that’s agile, forward focused and not settling for the status quo. Leadership needs to be disruptive if it’s going to create business change and have a lasting impact.
It’s all about a partnership approach (as opposed to a traditional top-down approach); seeking innovative ways to improve and then supporting people through the craziness that is often created by change.
There’s more to disruptive leadership than ‘innovative ways to evolve the business’; there’s being comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty and being equally comfortable as a leader with taking your people through this in a supportive way.
It links to Lewin’s three-step change model of unfreeze, change, refreeze. As a leader you are relentless in your approach to constantly seeking ways of what could be better or different, and you take your people on the journey with you leaving no-one behind.
2. Is disruptive leadership a fad or is it here to stay?
It’s a way of protecting against becoming stale. It’s not new thinking, but it draws on all the great elements of world-class leadership with a great packaged title that makes people go “ooh that’s different.”
You may look at Kotter’s 8 steps of change as a similar concept i.e. creating the urgency for change. Disruptive leaders aren’t looking to create an urgency they are seeking to innovate, which by definition, produces an urgency. As a leader you need to pursue the ability to do things differently with 100% commitment rather than just generate innovative ideas that don’t amount to anything and stay as ideas.
3. How can an organisation benefit from disruptive leadership?
You need to think long term, be strategic not tactical, and ensure longevity. Disruptive leadership creates an ideas-driven culture which is responsive to change, where change is the only constant in a business.
You need to be careful that because it’s all about change, being ahead of the game and not becoming extinct that you don’t end up being innovative for innovation’s sake. Toys R Us is a company that hasn’t majorly changed for 20 years. This has resulted in a stale approach that no longer looks fresh and which hasn’t adapted to the market.
4. How do you incorporate disruptive leadership into your work at Rambutan?
We focus on what you need for the future and not just want you need right now. We focus on challenging the status quo. We focus on all the core bits you need to be a world-class leader in a constantly changing and challenging business world. Disruptive leadership is being daring; a Rambutan core value.
5. What does this mean for the middle manager at any business?
Disruptive leadership can be applied at a local and national level within every team. Leaders need to be thinking about what they can do to transform, revolutionise and support their people/teams. They should always be future focused whilst keeping core values intact.
6. Do you have any great examples of disruptive leadership you can share?
Apple changed the mobile phone industry when they first created the iPhone. People no longer ask what mobile phone you’ve got but what iPhone you’ve got. Apple kept their core value of building beautiful products, but they were focused on what people really needed in the future that they could have now.
Amazon changed the landscape for delivering products to the customer. Depending on where you live you can order at 3pm and have your product delivered by 6pm on the same day. That’s delivery on demand and was very disruptive to previous delivery models.
7. Why is it that current thinking says that leaders need to lead the disruption?
If you’re creating that much disruption (or perceived to be) there needs to be a way to manage the chaos and protect people…that’s a leader’s role. Having a workforce who are constantly thinking innovatively and are comfortably going through periods of change is amazing.
8. Would you recommend disruptive leadership as a strategy to the leaders you work with?
Disruptive leadership isn’t a strategy, it’s a way of thinking. There are characteristics that a great leader can adopt to help them apply this thinking e.g. taking people through change, looking for innovation, being confident in your decisions that everyone can believe in.
9. What are your top three tips on how to make disruptive leadership a success?
- think about the possibilities and what ‘could be’
- relentlessly help others around you be comfortable with the constant that is change
- be decisive, daring and different
Thanks Craig for such an illuminating and thought-provoking discussion.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on disruptive leadership.