Lately, I have been hearing a word bantered around a lot, especially as companies try to navigate the extreme volatility of the current world environment.
The word is disrupt and is defined as – “to break or burst asunder, separate forcibly.” It is from the Latin word disruptus, from the past participle of disrumpere, meaning “break apart, split, shatter, or break to pieces.”
Organizations are asking leaders to disrupt the way they think and what they do – basically to CHANGE!
I find a bit of irony in leaders talking about disruption in the middle of what has been almost a three-year period of extreme disruption. Covid-19, The Great Resignation, The Quiet Resignation, sky-rocketing inflation, Ukraine and talk of nuclear weapons being used, a country as politically divided as it has been since the 1960’s, even the confusion of gender with its onslaught of proper pronoun usage, just to name a few disruptions.
With all of this disruption happening around us, I think it begs the question – what should I be disrupting? Causing disruption for the sake of disruption doesn’t guarantee success, in fact it can lead directly to failure.
Leadership – Knowing What to Change & What to Keep
I have seen this unfold countless times, a new leader comes in an applies what they already know and what they already have done in other companies or situations to the current situation. Even though it may be completely different.
They go on a power trip, jumping in and breaking things (disrupting) before they fully comprehend the current situation. There is a saying, “When all you have is a hammer (the same one you’ve used for years), everything is a nail.”
If you believe you can come from another country, industry, company, or department and simply do the same thing you did back there in the new place because it worked or you have an over-inflated ego – you are in for a rude awakening!
What Do I Need to Disrupt?
As a leader, the single biggest area of disruption for you – needs to be you! What you thought, think, do, and believe. Yes, you need to disrupt YOU first!
There is a very famous quote by Albert Einstein which says, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” In other words you can’t just reach back in your history and do what you did back then now and expect it to solve the problem or overcome the challenge.
You Want To Change Me?
Now I know, that right at this moment there are more than a few folks thinking I am asking you to cast away your beliefs, your religion, your values, to change who you are, or to be someone other than you are! I am a successful CEO, COO, President, V.P. Senior Manager, blah, blah, blah…
I can already hear your heels digging in as you cross your arms and say, “over my dead body!”
If you believe that you do not have to change a damn thing about yourself, if you believe you are at the pinnacle of wisdom and experience, then we already know where the problem lies – it’s you!
You and your ego- also known as the false self, the mask, the impostor, etc.
Knowing what to change about anything, including yourself, requires wisdom. In 12 -Step programs, they often refer to the Serenity Prayer which says – “God grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference.”
Wisdom to Know the Difference
Someone once defined the culmination of time, knowledge and experience as wisdom. However, I know people who have knowledge and have survived for years through various leadership changes by being a chameleon and kissing whichever bosses ass was in front of their face.
This is nothing new, it has been present since the beginning of time with kings, popes, emperors, dictators, presidents, and exists in every corporate boardroom, meeting room, and department in the world.
So where does one find true wisdom in order to knw what to disrupt and what not to?
Where to Start?
Wisdom has been defined as the ability to discern or judge what is true, right or lasting: insight. It has also been described as common sense or good judgment. I think we can all agree that many of the things happening in our society today lack common sense and good judgment in a major way. Things appear to be driven more by emotions than common sense or good judgment.
A huge part of wisdom for me happens when I step back and seek to understand others before being understood. It means I may have to set aside my own thoughts, wants, needs, and desires temporarily, so I can focus on understanding others. It doesn’t mean I have to agree or do what they want. I may, if it makes sense or represents good judgment. But I cannot do that if I am unwilling to disrupt me and my thinking!
I am being completely honest when I tell you, hands down, this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! As with many things I take two steps forward and five steps back. It has caused and continues to cause major disruptions in me and who I believed myself to be for many years (my ego).
But it is a start and the disruption starts with me – I wish the same for you!
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