5 Rules of Disruptive Leadership

UPDATED: October 29, 2015
PUBLISHED: October 29, 2015

What kind of leader are you? Are you bold? Do you break the rules and make your own? Or are you comfortable, content with the status quo?

As a leader, it’s easy to sometimes slip into a “comfortable shoes” mentality after a period of stability, when things are going well and the day-to-day workings of your world are moving along without more than the occasional small problem rippling the surface.

But leading inside your comfort zone is average leadership at best. It is inward looking. It is “beige” leadership—and ultimately, you will be overtaken by the disruptive leader, the leader who has a growth mindset, who focuses on the positive of change, the one who has the bigger picture end-goal in their sights, the one who refuses to put themselves inside a “no thanks” box when it comes to outside thinking, influences and the possibility of change.

So how can you make disruption work for you? By getting a little uncomfortable. Here are five tips for adopting a disruptive mindset, for becoming a rigorously reckless leader:

1. Be curious and ask why.

Questioning and changing your outlook when it comes to “why” will alter status quo and business opportunities. It will change the impossible to the possible, make an inventor into an explorer. Questioning “why” can remove roadblocks to business direction and potentially assist with navigational clarity. “Why” helps us understand a situation as it stands and how to improve the present for the betterment of the future. Without constant curiosity and questioning, doors to the future remain firmly slammed shut and the lens of opportunity blurs.

2. Stand up and be counted.

Stand in your spotlight, use your voice and don’t be afraid to emphasize your strengths, what you bring in terms of value, your point of difference. Have the courage to ask for the help and support needed to create the change you are looking for. This is not about second-guessing your business judgement—Why did I do that? What was I thinking? This is about having the self-confidence to back yourself, to think beyond the small square of now, and to always, always want to reach further and understand more.

3. Be leading edge not bleeding edge.

Become someone who thinks about business with a leading edge, not a bleeding edge. Think with agility, not lethargy. Taking an approach in business where it is just about you and not your team is a lazy approach. To include others in the decision-making process can be challenging, but the rewards are greater. By creating new discussion opportunities, it will take you further than 10 short, sharp barked out emails ever could—or will.

4. Build your bank of intelligence.

Skills and intelligence are an increasingly valuable currency for both corporates and entrepreneurs alike. So appreciate the value of an “intellectual bank”—the value of exchange and the possibilities of what it can bring to business. Teach each other something you previously had no knowledge of, embrace the strengths and skills of others around you, and, as a result, create more opportunity to influence others and to disrupt current thinking. 

5. Diversify your circle of influence.

The seed of disruption and new thinking occurs with difference of opinion, shared insights and learnings.  Review your network and ask yourself, Do I need to diversify. Do I need to expand my connections? Do I actually need to de-layer the “glass half-full” thinkers that limit ideation? The cross-fertilization of connections, skills and brainpower, and the ideas that are openly discussed and shared through network creation produce new opportunities, innovation and solutions to existing problems.

It is not enough to “lean in” for future-proofing individual success or even to be part of disruption in the workplace. Take a moment to look close: Where are you tolerating average thought and average leadership—from yourself, from others? Where could you be disrupting that thinking? Where can you and your team be disruptors? How can you give yourself, and by extension your team, the confidence to break the barrier of average?

As we head into an uncertain future, we all have to lean out, to collaborate with others, to embrace and engage on an unforeseen aggregated level—where thinking bigger than ever before will bring rewards to a collective commercial mind.

Harvard professor Linda Hill explains how to mine your team’s “collective genius”—to enable and encourage innovation and breakthrough work.

Sydney-based Janine Garner is an internationally-acclaimed entrepreneur and Fortune 500 mentor, keynote speaker and author. She is a partner at Thought Leaders Global, which helps clever people to become commercially smart, and the founder and CEO of the LBDGroup, a networking community that connects like-minded women together to help them achieve extraordinary growth. Janine is passionate about bringing brilliant people together to achieve remarkable results through collaboration, connection and influential leadership.

She is the winner of an International Stevie Award, a Top 10 finalist in the DARE Magazine Daredevil Awards and was listed in 2013 as one of Australia’s “Most Inspiring Women” by Madison Magazine. Janine is also the founder of Australia’s first gift giving circle, the First Seeds Fund, committed to supporting women and children at the grassroots of Australia with a focus on education and employment.

She is the author of From Me To We: Why Commercial Collaboration Will Future Proof Business, Leaders and Personal Success (Wiley 2015) and It’s Who You Know: How a Network of 12 Key People Can Fast-Track Your Success (Wiley 2017).