Leadership: The Irony of Disruption
by Business Motivational Speaker Connie Podesta
Scan the pages of any business publication, and you’ll come away with the message that successful leaders are supposed to innovate. Disrupt. Push the envelope. Think outside the box. Break the rules.
Oh yes, disruption is very trendy right now.
Let’s dive into that. Businesses have played a bit of a semantics game with the word “disruption.” For most of our lives, disruption was something to be avoided because it led to discord, turmoil, and problems. Not a healthy environment in which to do work or conduct business.
But today, disruption in the workplace has taken on a totally different meaning. It’s the idea that the most innovative ideas aren’t just upgrades to existing concepts, but complete disruption that creates brand new value. Now that is indeed a positive spin on disruption.
Unfortunately, along the exciting journey toward the creative and unconventional, some leaders have lost sight of another essential part of their jobs. They are also responsible for setting the tone for a non-disruptive work environment.
Leaders cannot expect employees to show up and generate breakthrough ideas in an environment that is unengaged, non-accountable, chaotic, unpredictable or even volatile. That’s unhealthy. And it will never lead to a barrage of innovative ideas. For great innovations to bloom, teams must be rooted in a workplace infrastructure that provides stability, accountability, transparency, open communication, and meaningful collaboration.
The big message for leaders?
Basic rules for creating a healthy work environment still matter. Even in this era that promotes taking risks with wild abandon. Organizations simply can’t operate with maximum productivity without effective guidelines to shape the quality of interactions among team members.
To optimize performance, leaders need to set the standards for what is appropriate (and what isn’t). Take a closer look at your workplace environment to determine whether your quest to “disrupt” has eroded the underpinnings of your team’s potential.
To help you create a healthy environment that successfully integrates with the need to “disrupt” for the greater good of the company, ask yourself these questions:
Is there respect and consideration? Or bossiness and criticism?
Strong leaders determine what type of behavior their teams should display by modeling it themselves. Differences of opinion should be encouraged (and are actually necessary for innovative disruption), but teams must learn to listen and disagree without resorting to put-downs, yelling or contempt.
Is there accountability for everyone? Or do things slip through the cracks?
Good leaders need to clearly communicate the goals and then get buy-in, consensus, and ownership from their teams. Accountability has both rewards for success and consequences for not achieving the agreed-upon goals. And most importantly, great leaders follow through to maintain a healthy environment.
Is there camaraderie and teamwork? Or tension and resentment?
Just like leaders set the pace for work, they also set the tone for the relationships on the team. If they help to create a work environment that is safe, respectful, and open to new and different ideas, the chances of increasing engagement and productivity are much higher.
Innovative disruption will remain a viable strategy for creating new technologies and superior products because it leads to profitable solutions. But great leaders don’t carry that disruption into the day-to-day work environment because they understand how that undermines the team’s ability to reach goals.