Organizations and leaders who successfully navigate disruption – epochal changes in markets, world view and relationships – are different from those who struggle to adjust. Creativity counts more than efficiency when you’re Nokia and Apple has just released the iPhone. Innovation is more valuable than scalability when 3D printing allows lightening fast product cycles. Vision means more than certainty when you’re leading Chrysler back from the brink.
Here are seven ways disruptive leaders differ from their stability-minded peers:
- Value learning over defending. Often when we are confronted with new things, we feel fear — the fear of the unknown. But a defensive response — rejecting new ideas, clinging to what’s known, arguing for why things can’t change — closes us off from learning. Disruptive leaders overcome their fear and shift into curiosity about the things they fear in order to learn the new ideas they will use to shape their future.
- Know yourself. This means knowing the tricks, patterns and habits you fall into that keep you in the land of the known. It also means noticing when you are reacting instead of learning or creating. And it means knowing how to break out of those patterns to dance a new step when the music changes.
- Connect. Successful leaders and organizations create varied and deep connections with others. Especially in times of disruption, the quality of connection is key to moving forward while drawing on everyone’s talents, instead of fracturing and losing the creative spark of connection.
- Stay in alignment. Disruptive leaders and organizations know what they want and stay aligned with it. They value directness and truth over bureaucratic politics because they know that integrity saves them time and energy. So whether it’s setting goals and staying on the path to them, or setting deadlines and keeping them, or making any one of the hundreds of agreements that run through their day, disruptive thinkers see when they get off course and take steps to get back in integrity quickly.
- Experiment relentlessly, happily and cheaply. Disruptive leaders try new things and are wise enough to know that even quick and dirty experiments can give valuable information about new paths. Because they don’t invest a lot of time, money or ego in experiments, disruptive leaders aren’t upset when they fail, knowing that even failures move them forward.
- Have clear ideas and opinions and hold them lightly. Disruptive leaders cannot afford to be blinded by their own stubbornness. Because they value learning over being right, disruptive leaders are always willing to question their opinions and beliefs.
- Relax. Disruptive leaders know that all work and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy, but also depletes their energy and creativity. Rarely do disruptive ideas arrive when they are sitting at their desks cleaning out emails. They regularly take time away from thinking about work to nurture their creativity for work.