Disruptive Leadership: Why It Matters To Today’s Student
Disruptive Leadership is a scary term for many. People don’t tend to like disruption. It forces them to drop the status quo and learn a new way of doing things.
The preference runs contrary to the individual’s inner desires and interests. Because, at the end of the day, people want a better way to do things.
A number of companies that you love — Netflix, Facebook, Amazon — would not be around today if it weren’t for the desire to tackle the status quo and be the disruptive leaders in their fields.
But here’s the rub: one day, some other form of disruptive leadership will come along to unseat their control over the way things are. At least, that will be the case if the companies stop innovating.
As a student, you are living in an ever-changing world that will only grow more unpredictable as time moves along. You need to know how you can be the disruption now more than ever if you’re wanting to stay marketable and competitive in the 21st Century. Let’s look at some core principles as covered in this episode of the TED Talks Podcast.
Tip 1 for becoming a disruptive leader: Find your tribe.
Every disruptive leader, Seth Godin notes, needs a tribe that will rally around their leadership. As Godin points out, “The Beatles did not create teenagers, but they decided to lead them.”
Finding a tribe requires you to know a little about yourself — where your interests lie as well as what you’re good at doing. Once you’re there, you need the next factor, which is…
2. Discover the vacuum.
Within every tribe, there will eventually be a vacuum, or vacancy, in leadership. When you are able to tell where that vacuum is, you have the ability to take command and be the type of disruptive leader needed to advance the tribe’s cause to the next level.
Think about Netflix for a moment. Before Reed Hastings started the company as a DVDs-by-Mail service, he had the vision for a company that no longer required physical product.
Netflix Instant was years in the making, and Hastings saw it long before any of his customers did. He realized the vacuum in the home rental space was that movie and TV viewers loved having choice as to what they wanted to watch, but they hated things like burning gas to drive to the store, paying late fees, and rewinding tapes. (For those of you that remember VHS, which ran concurrently with DVD.)
From observing the rise and fall of VHS, Hastings knew there was always a new iteration on the horizon and, just as DVD would eventually make VHS obscure, the fast Internet speeds and infrastructure would negate the need for physical discs.
Once he’d discovered that vacuum, he made Netflix his disruptor and necessitated competitors like Hulu and Amazon to follow suit.
3. Leverage the tools you have.
No matter what you may think of your skills and talents, you have personal resources at your disposal that allow you to rise above others and take on leadership roles.
The great thing about leveraging the tools you have, is that it allows you to start now and work toward meaningful change even before you have everything “figured out.” When Jeff Bezos started Amazon, he did not necessarily see the areas that his company would eventually become involved in.
At the time, it was a strictly online, sell-through-the-mail company that specialized in physical product. However, Bezos realized that with an elegant hardware device that made reading on a screen more user-friendly, he could generate more sales through offering eBooks as a loss-leader.
This decision edged Amazon deeper and deeper into the book world and prompted the closures of stores like Waldenbooks and Borders. Publishers started to panic and brought lawsuits against the company, but were ultimately slapped by the Department of Justice in an antitrust collusion lawsuit for trying to control pricing and operating as what was essentially a monopoly.
Amazon took advantage of vulnerabilities in the publishing field, but they ultimately played by the rules to forever change the world of creative content as we know it, and they did so by leveraging the tools that were available to them.
Today, Amazon’s digital products are among their most profitable, and they did not even exist when the company was founded.
And the final tip on disruptive leadership: Give yourself permission and credit.
Many leaders make the mistake of playing humble and discrediting their own contributions. While you may be the humble type, you cannot allow yourself to be dismissive of your own efforts.
When you embrace your leadership accomplishments, you discourage further leadership, and that ultimately does no good for anyone.
What if Steve Jobs had rested on his laurels with the first iteration of the iPod and stopped demanding innovation from his team?
We wouldn’t have the iPhone or the iPad or many of the technological advancements that have revolutionized the way we live and communicate. While some disgruntled older folks may bemoan the obsessed-with-phones culture that has developed around the iPhone, it is inarguable when looking at other advancements in medicine, technology, and the way we work, that Jobs did society in general a favor by deciding to continue down his path of disruptive leadership.
You don’t have to be arrogant when it comes to your accomplishments. In fact, that does little good for anyone either. But you can acknowledge your efforts and allow them to power you forward into new contributions and leadership roles.
There is a difference between briefly patting yourself on the back and resting on your laurels. Choosing the former over the latter will keep you from wasting your creative talents.
Don’t be afraid of disruption. It is going to be with you for a lifetime and beyond. Instead of running from change, consider being the agent of it. You will be surprised at what you’re capable of when you start looking at your tribes, finding the opportunities for leadership, leveraging the tools at your disposal, and then giving yourself the credit and permission needed to continue. What are some leadership qualities you feel you need help with? We’re always eager to hear from you, so please leave your remarks in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by LinkedIn]