Themes for Disruptive Leaders

Saturday June 12th, 2021 0 comments

Think back to leadership in the prehistorical tribes, then in the various first great civilizations, Sumerians, Egyptians, Sabaeans, Harappans, Chinese, Indians, Olmecs, Caralians, followed by the Romans, the Middle Age, the Renaissance, the industrial revolution or now, Toffler’s announced third wave… Did the paradigms on which leaders based their “license to operate” widely differ? In all those Worlds anchored into linear, predictable and organized contexts, leadership was pretty much comparable until the end of the 20th century.

Then came the era of “Disruption Economy”. I was amongst the many who believed it would be triggered by technology. It certainly was, for a part, but I was far to think a virus would expose us all to understand what Disruption could be… And today, in an unpredictable, chaotic, complex and non linear World, leadership, after centuries of immobilism, is called to a profound change!

We are just beginning our reflection/study on what “Disruptive Leadership” will be about. But, so far, we see 7 themes emerge:

  • The dusk of “Content Leadership” and dawn of “Context Leadership”: This is a fundamental belief (“the leader should know!”), mindset (I can’t be a good leader if I don’t tell my people how to master the situation) and behavioural shift (I need to progress by asking questions rather than by providing answers).
  • The disappearance of the “fear leader” and emergence of Psychological Safety (self-disclosure + feedback = trust=>Psychological Safety): In 1998, one of the World’s most capped football coaches, in charge of the World’s best team, lost the final of “the Cup” against a booed “loser” (at least, he was was prior to becoming a hero for winning it!) whose mantra was about killing the fear and create the conditions for his players to do and be their best. Nevertheless, how many leaders still believe that “Stress is good” (proven completely wrong by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the ”guru” of motivation) and that a “High Challenge/Low Support” culture is what brings results. Google’s “Aristoteles Project” has demonstrated that Psychological Safety is what brings positive results!
  • Identify and challenge orthodoxies: The Disruption Economy welcomes those who think beyond the actual limitations. It encourages us to identify self-imposed limits and unconscious beliefs we follow and decisions we took. Back in a 1997 interview, Strategy Professor, Gary Hamel was already inviting us to “to systematically deconstruct the orthodoxies and dogmas that rule a business”.
  • Migrate from Critical Thinking tools to Self-Critical Thinking philosophy: I recently came across a LinkedIn sponsored “Critical Thinking Course”. What a bore! It was (with all due respect!) a “Critical Thinking Course for Engineers”, a tool box stolen to TQM (Total Quality Management), Kepner Tregoe’s once celebrated Problem-Solving logics and Process Re-engineering, aiming at a better quality decision making. So let’s depart from that limited toolbox and rebrand what we mean in “Self-Critical Thinking”. Political leaders, negotiators, business heads need to learn the skills of observing how they act and react in a conversation, seek to understand why the other party say and think what they say and think, be convinced that their value added is not into winning the argument and having it their way but rather behave like a partner to a wider cause and a problem-solver rather than a lawyer.
  • Understand the importance of Ethos and Pathos: back in 2009, our book, “Engaging Leadership” largely discussed the importance of Aristoteles’ Logos (rationale and competences), Ethos (values and behaviours) and Pathos (passion and emotions). In 2020/2021, in times of isolation, doubt and confinement we have witnessed that leaders who create Psychological Safety, Informality and Trust, who display Vulnerability, those who reduce the Power Distance and balance well transactional and relational ways to connect have created far more value than their 20th Century counterparts.
  • The emergence of Community Engagement, not just Team Leadership: Teams are to what the army is to organizational models, Community is a blend between commando and self-organized entities. Teams are pyramidal, hierarchical and siloed organisations. Communities are flatter, connected, volunteers spirited boundary free organisms. Samba schools partially are Communities, at least they are based on that idea. See what two of samba’s great Ademir da Silva (composer) and CarlĂŁo (master Carlos Sebastian who died from Covid a year ago) say about what it feels to work for a Community.




  • Trust will be given prior to be earned: It has been a lengthy debate and both sides were presenting convincing arguments. But something has changed with the disruption wave: It is a powerful (and, at times, lethal, accelerator). Earning trust takes time and creates an atmosphere of defiance. As Business Futurist, Gerd Leonhard says, “Trust is the new currency” in the Disruption Economy. Putting ourselves in danger, taking risks, because we trust others (and we will trust them better when reducing Power-Distance, practising a relational and informal way to connect etc.) will be winning edges.

These are the first strong trends we see emerge in “Disruptive Leadership”. We believe they will fundamentally challenge what leadership is and how it will impact our businesses. This week, Nick and I will have the chance to proceed with our first interview for our YouTube Channel. Please subscribe, not for our egos as one person cutely thought, but because the higher the number of subscribers the more diverse and interesting will be our “Disruptive Speakers”…


  • We need 30 seconds of your time to support us…

    Saturday June 5th, 2021 3 comments

    Dear Readers, dear Friends, As you may know by now, Nick McRoberts and I have decided to write a second book, triggered by what we see as the biggest decision Mankind has to take about its fate: How will we decide to invest the trillions of you-name-the currency, that governments have pledged, to reset the Economy? Will we haste backwards…

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    Friday May 28th, 2021 0 comments

    “Science without consciousness, will lead to the ruining of our souls” used to warn the 16th century French advanced thinker, Rabelais. Alvin Toffler, the famous Futurist, who passed away in 2016, was warning in his 1970 book, the Future Shock, that “too much change in too short a period of time” would cause unsuspected wounds and grief amongst ordinary people.…

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    Saturday May 22nd, 2021 0 comments

    In an excellent article about self-organised teams (“The Irresistible Future Organising” 1996) visionaries Meg Weathley and Myron Kellner-Rogers wrote: “People need opportunities to “bump up” against others in the system, making the unplanned connections that spawn new ventures or better integrated responses.” Several times, in this blog, I have displayed a simulation designed by Ernst & Young, in the early…

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  • The three Fallacies of Albert Ellis

    Friday May 14th, 2021 0 comments

    Eleven years ago, we had invited a high level practitioner and therapist in R.E.B.T. (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, created by psychologist Albert Ellis). For those of you who know our practice well, the link was obvious with Logos, Pathos, Ethos and we were keen to understand if there was anything we could ethically (i.e. without betraying Albert Ellis or without…

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  • Beyond Critical Thinking: Constructive Conversations

    Friday May 7th, 2021 0 comments

    Mankind offers a unique track record in failing its encounters with History. In the 20th century only, Russia freed itself from the Czars, just to go back under another yoke. We lost approximately 20 million lives in World War I and, incapable to spare shame and punishment towards the defeated parties, we were faced 26 years later with another deflagration,…

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  • Let us prepare together the Post-Covid Economy

    Friday March 5th, 2021 0 comments

    During the first Covid pandemic wave, we observed the corporate and political leaders who were having a positive impact on their constituencies or employees. One of the five points these men and women have in common is the refusal to “look at the Future in the rear-view mirror”. They are acutely aware that going back, after Covid, to “Business as…

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  • New Mindset: How to think strategically in the Disruption Economy

    Sunday February 14th, 2021 0 comments

    When asked by participants to my public speeches about the tools that disruptive organizations use, my reply is that, tools don’t make an organization disruptive: its mindset and culture do! This being said, to identify and challenge orthodoxies (Gary Hamel 1997) are a classic of disruptive thinking (see my article of 2017). Shell’s famous scenario planning (1970’s) is another way…

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  • “New Normal” or “New Mindset”?

    Sunday February 7th, 2021 0 comments

    I confess to be increasingly sceptical when hearing people talk about “New Normal”, a convenient way to go back, without too much questioning, to “Business as Usual” after a superficial facelift! Working from home? New Normal! All digital? New Normal! Virtual meetings? New Normal! Increased control? New Normal! And the list could be long… The problem I have with “New…

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  • Distance working goes against creating “Intelligent Organizations”

    Saturday January 23rd, 2021 4 comments

    The actual pandemic will have taught us the joys and challenges of distance-work, working from home, virtual meetings etc. And there is no question, in my mind, that this is absolutely necessary. It enables organisations to continue to work (and it is amazing how quickly we have adapted and performed) whilst limiting the damage to employees’ health and showing respect…

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  • Bonding feels good but is a destructive strategy!

    Saturday January 9th, 2021 2 comments

    Almost nine years ago, I wrote an article titled: “Bonding vs bridging: One of the biggest cause of value destruction”. I recommend you read it (again?) as a complement to this one. Bonding is an exclusion based reflex or strategy, inciting divisiveness and polarization against a common “enemy” (usually a weak placebo for the lack of a superior, shared and…

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