Are you ready to shift from GPS to Waze leader?


Didier Marlier

July 04, 2015

From Disruption to Engagement

We support leaders as they navigate through significant strategic and cultural changes.  We are united by our values of Expertise, Courage and Generosity. Our network operates across the world.

Mass Engagement Process


Cultural Performance Improvement


Innovative Leadership Development


Team & Individual Coaching

Disruption… Recently, Gerd Leonhard published a series of short (2’) clips on different and unusual aspects of this phenomenon (privacy failure, knowledge & learning, future of jobs, automation, offline as the new luxury). I encourage you to take a look at his site and watch the 6 of them. This is just the introduction.

Disruption, like change, has become an integral part of our leadership context.

So when, two days ago Bertrand Theraulaz, a famous sports coach applying the most recent discoveries about MBTI to his work, sent me this video link about Prof. Hamel, I watched. Many of us hold Gary Hamel as one of the most inspiring strategist and precursor of the “Disruption Economy”. Not so long ago, I summarized here an old (1997) but so visionary and actual article of his, talking about orthodoxies.

Thought provoking as usual, Gary Hamel claims that the most radical and revolutionary invention is not internet, biogenetics or anything of the kind but… Management. The clip is interesting (short 16’43’’’ like a TED speech) and, very presumptuously, I would challenge Prof. Hamel here. The most radical innovation is yet to come, and it is not about management and organizations but about our assumptions on leadership. During the XIXth and XXth Century, transportation has gone from horse and carriages to interstellar rockets and soon, who knows, teletransportation. Communication has gone from wired telegraph, pigeons, smoke signals and messengers to the internet and could soon become telepathic. Medicine has evolved from the Middle age and renaissance traditional amputations and bloodletting to epigenetics. Technology went from hammer and anvil to nanotechnologies, the art of killing “evolved” from arrows and bows to neutron bombs, even “Change has changed” says Gary Hamel. Only ONE thing has kept resolutely the same in relation to all this: The assumptions on which we base leadership:

  1. It is still pyramidal (even though some organizations have reversed it upside down)
  2. “Seniority still suggests superiority”
  3. Distance and dependency still seem attributes inseparable from leadership

So everything (or almost) around us has radically changed but the way we lead our people should remain the same?

Dave Snowden in his Cynefin model suggests that the leadership context, which used to be mainly simple or complicated is now increasingly complex and chaotic (although those two have always existed they are on a sharp rise if I listen well to the thousands of leaders my partners and I meet every year). For him, it is time to challenge our assumptions from leading when I know to leading when I don’t know. The first is the classical, analytical, sequential, problem solving approach (like in the good old Kepner Tregoe models around 1) identify the problem, 2) find the root cause, 3) propose a solution to the problem, 4) control it has resolved the issue…) The second, Leading when I don’t know is closer to the Creation Logic of Prof. Jay Rao mentioned several times here: When seeking to disrupt the business through groundbreaking innovation and you have no idea in which direction to aim (leading in complex or chaotic settings): fail fast, fail cheap and fail smart.

Nick van Heck, our colleague and friend of elpnetwork foresees that strategy will shift from “guessing the future (linear, predictable) to preparing for the future (uncertain, unpredictable)”.

The metaphor suggested last week by Denys Monteiro, CEO of FESA, one of Brazil’s largest recruitment & executive search firms) on his blog: are you a GPS leader, who still lives under the assumption that leaders should know, plan and fine “the right” solution or are you transitioning towards being an adaptable, creative, observing Waze leader (following the name of that application which constantly updates, tries new ways to offer you a best alternative, through the generous cooperation of its users)?

The Disruption Economy, in which we live, demands that we challenge some of our deeply held assumptions about leadership:

  • Out: The “leader as a specialist”, who bases his “license to operate” on the fact he knows better than the rest. In: Tomorrow’s leader will ask the right questions, trigger curiosity and willingness to explore. She will be able to connect the intelligences of others. She will be “intelligence architect”
  • Out: The “Distant leader”, who maintains a climate of fear, who is unable to engage with his people. He risks seeing his organization evolve faster than him and will increasingly feel inadequate. In: Leaders of tomorrow will “kill the fear” (but not their high expectations), create powerful, collaborative and generous networks and will work alongside their people. Yes, Steve Jobs, or as recently quoted in a magazine, Elon Musk (Tesla) or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) are known for being just the opposite. But their exceptional genius saves them… for the moment
  • Out: The “c.v. Leader”. Since my last article on “headhunting vs match making”, I came across numerous failure stories “executive search firms”. They seem to be obsessed by finding the right “Logos”, the right pedigree and cv and fail totally to take into account the Ethos (behaviours, will he fit into our culture?) and Pathos (What drives him? Will he have the charisma to engage our people to follow him?). In: Leaders of tomorrow will work and be at ease not just on the Logos lever but excel on the Ethos and Pathos
  • Out: The “Narcissistic leader” will be bypassed by the “Charismatic leader” while busy showing off with the press and other award winning ceremonies. Charisma will be much needed. Egocentrism is out.

Have an excellent Summer, if you live in the Northern hemisphere, and enjoy the Winter break if you live South. I will interrupt the blog for a few weeks due to the usual drop in readership during this period. Thank you for your interest and the effort you make to follow this blog. See you back in September!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mobile: +41 79 435 1660

Skype: didiermarlier

5 Route du Village

1884 Villars-sur-Ollon

CH - Switzerland

“Engaging Leadership” has been written for leaders who are about to engage their organisations in change."

12 + 4 =