Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Leaders Should Create Disruption

When many people think of leaders, they imagine the person who brings peace and happiness to followers. In that environment, people are content with life as it is. Peace and happiness reduces the need for the kind of satisfying growth and development that uncomfortably stretches you well outside of your comfort zone. In other words, it creates complacency. Therefore, if a leader, especially a CEO, wants to build a thriving organization, he will intentionally create problems. If he isn’t doing that, the company lacks
a CEO and may be headed for obsolescence. 

While this may sound extreme and counterintuitive, the best CEOs are the ones who disrupt their companies as well as their competitors. If you can imagine Steve Jobs coming into work one day and saying, ‘we are going to make the Walkman obsolete’. At first, this may have sounded preposterous. Apple Computer made computers. Why would they compete with a Walkman? Yet, the iPod has changed consumers’ behavior towards music and made the Walkman a dinosaur.

Steve Jobs’ disruptive nature has empowered Apple to create an assortment innovative products and services. As a result, many people desire to work at Apple where they can be part of cutting edge innovation. Apple is known to be an environment that promotes personal and professional growth. At the same time, many people adore and would prefer leaders who make everything peaceful and void of problems or disruptions.

In the US, our culture is designed to avoid problems. Problems/breakdowns are seen as bad or wrong. In fact, when there is a problem, people start pointing fingers at anyone to blame for the disruption. This way of thinking is counterproductive and highlights a quote by Theodore Rubin. “The problem is not there are problems.  The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” 

With that said, problems, challenges, disruptions, breakdowns, etc. are not inherently wrong. It is our perspective of what is occurring that forces us to see a problem as a problem. Furthermore, as long as we see a disruption as a problem, we will miss possible opportunities that exist in the breakdown.

On the other hand, great leaders seize the moment and exploit the opportunity.  If you observe the most effective leaders, they are the most graceful in the face of problems. It’s not that they have magic. It is how they manage themselves in the face of challenges. Those who handle challenges with alacrity are the ones who are most willing to assume responsibility for the big audacious goal that appears to be a problem.

What’s wrong with disruption? Nothing! It is an occurring. It is what you say about what is occurring that can dictate the outcome. If you see it as a problem, it is unlikely that you will find the opportunities that often lie in the problem. If a problem does exist when breakdowns occur, the problem is in the way you think about disruptions. The hidden mentality of someone who believes problems are problems is that they believe there is something wrong with themselves, other people or the circumstances.

Creating problems on purpose is a powerful way to grow exponentially and drive innovation. When disruptions happen outside or independent of you, it is an opportunity to take a step back and get clear about what you want to accomplish. By doing so, you may find the problem is not a problem. It is the opportunity that others could not see because they were too busy running from the problem. What could be more empowering than creating an opportunity out of a situation that everyone else thought was a problem?  

What do you think? I would love to hear what you think. Or if you want to write me on a specific topic, let me know.

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