Marrying Incumbents and Startups (Part 2)

Legacy leaders hold on to the rules. Startup leaders abandon them. Disruptive leaders write new ones but always explain why.

This article is based on a keynote speech, “Disruptive Leadership,” at the World Forum Disrupt, Strategy & Innovation Conference in New York City.  This is part two a two-art series. The first part is here. Through my work over the past decade, I have been observing highly effective leaders, and, as a result, I came up with five main pillars of disruptive leadership. I covered three in the first piece and will cover two here, with a conclusion. 4. Make the Rules — Break the Rules Legacy leaders hold on to the rules. Startup leaders abandon the rules. Disruptive leaders break the rules and write new ones but always explain why. The market is constantly changing, and to stay in the game sometimes means breaking the rules - disruptive leaders constantly challenge the existing best practices and develop new ones. It is a leader’s duty to communicate the “new norm” and “new best practices.” If employees are not informed or do not understand the new norm, the company can’t play collectively as a team. Willingness to break the rules isn’t the same as absolute absence of rules. See also: Why the Insurance Industry Is Primed   Reflect: What rules at work or in your career could you challenge or change? 5. Resist Ambiguity — Embrace Ambiguity Leading disruption means getting used to constant ambiguity and uncertainty. This is particularly challenging for legacy leaders, who are used to being able to provide absolute certainty and clarity to their employees. When they are not able to offer that, they sometimes remain silent because they don’t want to give false promises. This strategy, however, is counterproductive, as it builds even more anxiety and mistrust. Disruptive leaders excel at guiding others through chaos. They innovate and iterate. They keep their eyes and ears open, and they are better informed the second time. They excel at communication by explaining in practical terms how the changes under way tie into the business objectives, even though they are not able to explain every single step that will take them there. They empathize with their teams and involve them in their thinking. However, they do not compromise the decisiveness. Disruptive leaders understand that leading by consensus is not always the most effective way when the environment changes abruptly. Reflect: What is the one thing you could do to become better at embracing ambiguity in your work and your career? See also: Insurtech’s Lowest Common Denominator   Conclusion Neuroscientists say that we have about 80,000 to 90.000 thoughts each day and that about 80% of them are negative. What is even more interesting, about 95% of those thoughts are repetitive -- exactly same as yesterday. A neuroscientist. Dr. Joe Dispenza, wrote a phenomenal book called “"Breaking the habit of being yourself" – how to lose your mind and create a new one." He talks about how everything we have learned and experienced has been incorporated into our biological “self,” and we wear it every day, diligently, as if it were a uniform. So my question to you today is: What would happen if your brain were not wearing a uniform every day? What would happen if you started looking at your current reality, job, career, life as a mere indication of what is possible and start seeing the space of unlimited possibility that is so much more? Because that’s what disruptive leaders would do.

Marina Cvetkovic

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Marina Cvetkovic

Marina Cvetkovic is a trusted C-suite coach and adviser focusing on innovation, agility and disruption. She combines her strong financial services background with coaching expertise to help companies and executives redefine their processes and build a culture of agility and innovation.


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