Disruptive leadership refers to the way some leaders relate in a non-traditional way to those they lead, by changing hierarchical models, adapting to change (with an eye to the future), speeding up the sharing of ideas and teamwork, and following on from that, by creating teams within teams that interrelate ‘like siblings’.
Yes, some of the above words seem rather obvious, others are quite unusual for describing leadership models and team motivation. But that’s exactly the case with disruptive leadership, in which it’s not everything you would actually expect it to be. The important thing is the result, but of course the way to get to that, via the process model, matters greatly.
One of the most respected experts on disruptive leadership began writing about it and giving lectures on it after he asked to be dismissed from his leadership position.
After a report in Rolling Stone magazine in which he made fun of American Vice President Joe Biden and allied French troops, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal resigned from his post as commander in chief of US forces in Afghanistan.
“Leadership was about connection and a high sense of mission. So all who were there were like brothers”
Perhaps this phrase explains his completely contrasting attitude to the rigors of military hierarchy.
Disruptive Leadership According to Two Specialists on the Subject
McChrystal’s perspective on Disruptive leadership
During the more than two initial decades in which he served in the American Armed Forces, McChrystal noted that leadership was focused on the humiliation and submission of those being led. Mistakes were always punished.
In his opinion, leaders also make mistakes all the time and therefore should help the group in the long run by building-up and encouraging people and their relationships, not by ending them.
“Disruptive leadership does what seems obvious to us: it looks at others as human beings, not as inanimate tools that serve to fulfill orders” – Commented the ex-General.
And he emphasizes that disruptive leadership is based on strengthening qualities and viewing errors as moments to learn from:
“The art of being disruptive is to find the best path, with the least risk of falling often, which will lead to a better place (be it concrete or not)”
On his website, McChrystal suggests an organizational chart for companies to turn command structure into a team structure, check out:
To fully understand McCrystal’s ideas, check out his TED Talks video:
Otto Scharmer and Disruptive Leadership
With several books published and many studies done in the field, Scharmer takes a more focused approach on how disruptive leaders should anticipate the future and its social transformations as they occur, in order to react to them as quickly as possible.
For him, disruptive leadership plays a key role for organizations to adapt to change and build the future.
- Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies
- Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges
In a nutshell, you can summarize your ideas into 4 important questions:
- Faced with a disruptive scenario, what emerging future is already discernible?
- How do we deal with the emerging future?
- What evolutionary economic structure can guide us?
- How can we create practical strategies that help us operate from the future we want to create?
To delve deeper into Scharmer’s ideas, you can take these edX online courses, which are both free:
- How to Feel and Update the Future: Awareness-Based Systems Change with u.lab – How to Sense and Update the Future
- Leading the Emerging Future: u.lab: Leading From the Emerging Future
It will be much easier and effective to lead companies and teams with an eye on the future with the use of BPM modeling tools like HEFLO, free software with BPMN 2.0 notation that helps to create your workflows in a pleasant and intuitive way.