Disruption: The inconvenient truth for leaders

"Disruptors challenge assumptions. They shake the status quo. They are curious and creative. They adapt and improvise. They push the boundaries and shatter conventional wisdom. They'd rather forge new ground than blindly salute the flag of the past." - Josh Linkner.

How often do you experience a wave of disbelief at the sheer pace and scale of 'who-would-have-thought-it' change?

When the Berlin Wall came tumbling, when political populism kindled mass protest in our streets, when Thomas Cook collapsed, or when a quiet community's streets were flooded for the first time in history, 'it's unbelievable!' is the familiar cry.

Disruption is omni-present, and teenagers to retirees are grappling with what each generation perceives as unprecedented change.

And yet, it is the magnitude of change really all that seismic? In Yuval Harar's epic biography of human history, Sapiens, he contends that disruption is not just a 21st century phenomenon. The reality is that a cycle of disruption has persisted throughout history and is an almost inevitable part of societal and business trends.

Step inside many a boardroom today, and the agenda is how to achieve year-on-year growth, keeping ahead of the competition or inventing the 'next big breakthrough'.

Increasingly, disrupt-or-be-disrupted? is a perplexing strategic debate.

We are all living in disruptive times, and the inconvenient truth for leaders is the need to accept that 'disruption is the new normal'. In the world of senior leadership, coaching and development, crucial conversations tackle coming to terms with the realisation that leadership is never done. If you (like me) are an aspiring completer-finisher, that can be a tricky thing to reconcile!

At Gradvert, we are privileged to step inside organisations who are courageously learning to lead in operating environments that are constantly being disrupted.

Whether it's the rise of automation, the rapid and sometimes fickle pace of consumer demand, or striving to take competitive advantage in emerging tech sectors, our clients are learning to consciously bring disruption into their boardrooms, operations, sales floors and in-the-field customer delivery teams.

Hot on the heels of 'Business Transformation' (delivering many innovations, in tandem and across an entire organisation) the new latest buzz-phrase is preparing for the 'Future of Work'. Whilst Futurism is a necessary part of horizon scanning, the reality for most is that the future is already happening.

With leaders in our client organisations and in our own business, we are tackling big questions such as:

  • How might we become data-savvy enough to have business intelligence in real time?
  • How might we re-skill our team to deliver business at the speed of bots, yet with the human sensitivity that only our people can bring?
  • How might we accelerate time to market of new products and services?
  • How do we ensure we do a great job delivering today's business, whilst pivoting for next-decade growth?

If you're a leader contemplating these mind-bending challenges, the good news is, you are not alone. Striving to be in control of everything is an impossible quest, so we challenge leaders to embrace disruption and evaluate how leadership capability stacks up against some critical 'new-normal' parameters.

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Here are our indicators in the Gradvert Golden Thread of Disruptive Leadership capability:

  1. Are you a value-creator or a capability specialist? 
    McKinsey's recent research into leadership structures reveals that the most adaptive businesses are moving away from hierarchies and matric management, to a Helix organisation. Capability managers bring deep expertise to the table and can be relied upon to mentor and develop skills in their specialist discipline. Value-creators work across many disciplines to leverage learning, innovation, productivity and collaboration. Your organisation needs both capabilities to thrive.
  2. Are your human skills setting you apart in your industry? 
    Everyday leadership requires many people to be brave enough to take a lead and make a stand - to do the right thing. At Gradvert we call these 'human skills', the differentiator that delivers long term competitive advantage, even in our tech-charged world.
  3. Are you able to tell the right stories with your data? 
    As the third wave of technology pervades with AI, machine learning and robotic-process-automation the speed of business is hard to keep up in real-time. Leaders need to learn how to sponsor and leverage value from data insights, analytics and process innovation. 
  4. Are you modelling compassion and resilience? 
    Burn-out is one of the biggest derailers in an always-on pseudo-agile organisation. Are your senior leaders modelling the types of behaviours and values that sustain stability, as well as speed?
  5. Does your organisation have a growth mindset? 
    Without continuous and lifelong learning, especially at the most senior levels of your business, leadership stasis is one of the biggest risks in a disrupted environment.

Here at Gradvert we stimulate people to shape and shift leadership mindset, behaviours and capabilities - at all levels. We leverage learning at all career stages - because if you're not learning, you're being disrupted, rather than being the disruptor. We talk, listen to and challenge you to test your organisation's leadership capability. 

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