How To Lead In The Age Of Disruption
As we work through what has undoubtedly been one of the most disruptive times in recent history, it’s easy to feel a loss of control. We’ve seen all the memes about the year 2020 and the havoc it has wreaked. But I want you to know, and I say this with sincerity and confidence, you can take back this year and finish it stronger than ever! You can head into 2021 prepared to be a leader (and a leading organization) in “the Age of Disruption.”
At this point in 2020, despite all that has happened, did you find any joy in your work? Did you have energy and focus? Did you invest time in your personal growth and development? Did you help others achieve success?
If you can’t answer the above questions with positive gusto, then ask yourself these questions: Where do I want to be at the end of 2020? How do I need to work differently in the next few months to get there? How do I help myself to more effectively lead others?
Before you answer, I encourage you to stop and really think about what it means to work and live in “The Age of Disruption”. For more than a decade, way before COVID-19, we have experienced change, technical and social, at dizzying speeds. Few executives and leaders have time to respond to what’s coming at that them, let alone focus on a longer-term picture.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By becoming more present and intentional, you can accomplish more without sacrificing quality over quantity.
What do I mean by this? Let’s start with what I don’t mean. I’m not talking about new-age positive “kumbaya” thinking (although I do believe attitude and personal energy matters.) I’m talking about practical things you can do to create a culture where you and your team are growing and empowered while accomplishing the work.
During my career as a CEO and consultant, I have worked with leaders and teams of varying cultures, styles, successes, and failures. As I’ve observed trends across companies, sectors, and leaders, one thing has really struck me. The organizations who see “The Age of Disruption” as an opportunity, that adapt and evolve quickly with discipline, are the most effective.
As a leader, what are you putting in place to create a sense of discipline, which will build stability? Establishing how frequently you need to touch base with your team is a great place to establish team cadence. This will assist you and your team in understanding when to surface potential disruptions or opportunities.
The challenge for so many leaders is that they feel overwhelmed—barely keeping their head above the water with their workload—and that time to build discipline within their team is just another log on that workload fire. I see more leaders burning out today than ever before (and that was before a global Pandemic!) To not just survive this current state, but to actually thrive in it, leaders need to take care of themselves. One simple step towards this is to schedule “white space”: one hour a week for you to ponder and reflect—no agenda, no people.
Like we do with fitness or health, leaders must establish regimens to enhance their thinking, skills, and perspectives. Because disruption requires adaptation and agility, create a support network of internal and external people that not only improve your growth but also your joy. Coaching focuses on your competencies—from communication to holding people accountable—improving how you perform. Advisement provides an outside perspective to challenge your ideas or take your organization in a new direction, such as scale, digital transformation, and succession.
Without discipline, you risk succumbing to chaos. To quote Game of Thrones, “Chaos isn’t a pit. It’s a ladder.” Be mindful of what you’re climbing for, and how you plan to achieve it. Finish 2020 strong, but do so in a way that ensures you have positively helped yourself and others along the way. You’ll then be prepared for whatever else the future may bring, and you’ll also reap the rewards for years to come.[Note: I’ve updated this article from a previous version that was published in 2019, to reflect our current situation with COVID-19. It was interesting to go back and see just how much disruption has occurred in just that short time! It gives even more meaning to the phrase “The Age of Disruption”. If you’d like more guidance for how to lead during disruption, check out my 2020 Fall Season Playbook, a free download with three handpicked strategies to help you finish 2020 strong.]