Cultivating Disruptive Leadership – A Global and Australian Opportunity for CEO’s

Disruption is no longer just a catch phrase. For CEO’s and Executives, disruption typically takes place on two levels. Firstly, long-standing business models are disrupted, and secondly, self-disruption takes place. Self-disruption is a natural outflow, as the two concepts are inseparable. CEO’s are not able to deal with disruption effectively without having a good look at themselves, how they respond and what derails and what propels them forward in this uncertain environment.

Every day CEO’s are required to deal with many competing priorities. They have to:

  • Act and deliver – with speed, urgency, and decisiveness.
  • Interpret and visualize the future, engaging employees and key-stakeholders.
  • Lead from the front, with humility.
  • Have an adaptive mindset in a disruptive environment with the ability to continually re-position the business.

According to the KPMG Australia 2017 Global Outlook, disruption and growth are inseparable. Constant change, even in uncertain times, is becoming increasingly necessary for business success. Gary Wingrove, the CEO of KPMG said that this year the CEO is required to be the disruptor, meaning they have to challenge their own role to better lead their business to success.

Leaders have things they know about, that keep them up at night, and some stay awake concerned about what they don’t know.  Organizations get flatter, information is more readily available, and empowerment becomes increasingly critical to succession. These elements continue to democratize leadership to all levels of the organization.

As we look at 2018, what would continue to be the key disruptors, globally?

  • Customers. Foremost, this is likely to continue to be the biggest driver of global disruption. How customers want their products, in what form, where and when will continue to drive disruption of any business model.
  • Technological advances. Better and smarter technology allows for better and more efficient production processes.
  • Competitors. The rapid rate of disruption and emerging competitors in sectors previously protected by patents and high entry costs.
  • Where and at what rate customers want their products will continue to have a massive impact on distribution channels and methodologies.

Cultivating Leadership for this unpredictable environment is not only required, but it is also essential for survival. CEO’s should respond to this environment by not perceiving disruption as having a negative impact. It is an opportunity waiting to be embraced. To achieve this, consider the following strategies:

  • Challenge your own leadership and your role. Is your role one of positional power, or do you empower and influence your team to cultivate innovation, risk-taking, and creativity? Australia’s key findings from the PWC Global CEO Report explains the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on people, and how CEO’s should respond. “Twenty years ago, there were fewer than 700,00 industrial robots worldwide; today there are 1.8 million, and the number is expected to soar to 2.6 million in another two years. More than three-quarters of CEOs globally believe technology will cause job losses over the next five years. The role of the CEO is to not see this as a threat, but recognize the window of opportunity to rethink and redesign the way they employ, manage and interact with people”.
  • Many senior executives are spending more time than ever on self-development and self-management strategies. Understanding what drives you and what derails you, has great benefits.
  • Stay focused on leveraging your core business, and at the same time developing strategies for entering future growth businesses.
  • Build organizational resilience, in your leadership and your employees. A disruptive environment has a big impact on employee well-being and ability to manage their work life. Steve Worrall, the Managing Director of Microsoft Australia, said that: “New technology is exacerbating peoples already demanding lives. So, empathy is critical for senior leaders to enable their employees to be more efficient and productive. I want to ensure my team, and my clients are not overwhelmed. They need to have a sense of wellbeing and balance to thrive in the complex environment, but to also have a rich and full life with their families.”
  • Focus and exploit cognitive technology – artificial intelligence such as robotics, speech recognition, and machine learnings. Cognitive technology will most certainly impact headcount levels, but smarter more technological ways of doing business will act as counter and open avenues for job creation.

Working with disruption as an opportunity, rather than a threat, builds leadership agility and as a result, future-proof leaders and their businesses.