Monthly Archives: July 2011

When it comes to leadership, is “Disruptive” the new black?

Remember when disruptive was a dirty word?  As in:

Dear Mrs. Jones,

Little Johnny is bright, articulate and eager to learn.  However, his disruptive behavior is a major concern, and penalizes the other 24 children in our class.  Please have Johnny write “I will not disrupt the class” 100 times for homework.  Hopefully, this will get his disruptiveness under control.

Increasingly, I am seeing disruptiveness categorized as a positive attribute…companies want to be known as disruptive (often in the context of innovation); leaders are hailed as disruptive. GM’s Dan Akerson recently held disruption exercises with his leadership team.

It is a radical application of common sense to see that doing “more of the same” isn’t going to get America back to work, or pull our economy out of its malaise.  As leaders in Washington debate the debt ceiling and policy initiatives to stimulate the economy – in boardrooms everywhere, people are embracing disruption.  They are holding up examples like Apple, Google, Southwest Airlines and Chipotle as examples of the inherent value of disruptiveness, and striving to find their own version of disruption.

When it comes to leadership, “disruptive” is the new black.  Like most leadership trends, the devil is in the details.  True disruptiveness can reinvent, reinvigorate and restore relevance of a company or a brand.  But using the disruptive label, without substance, runs the risk of simply adding to the graveyard of overused, meaningless corporate buzzwords like paradigm shift, collaborate and alignment.

Can we disrupt the nature of corporate speak and preserve the authenticity of being truly disruptive?  Only time will tell.

Horrible Bosses….Are They Actually Horrible Leaders?

The movie Horrible Bosses is sure to spark lots of water cooler conversations – the legendary Paul Bunyan style, “I can top that” stories of impolite, unprofessional or otherwise horrible bosses.

Believe me, I have a few of those stories myself – a boss who used to make a mess every Friday, then skip out early and leave me to clean it up.  The guy who told me straight up that he hadn’t hired me, and was going to make me quit. (Apparently my first job manicure, Ann Taylor suit and earnest expression rubbed him the wrong way.)

Which begs the question, what makes a horrible boss?  And is a horrible boss truly a horrible leader, or is there a disconnect between what employees think is important and what leaders think is important?

Check out this piece from Forbes, which describes the Body Language of horrible bosses.  Some of these are so obvious, they are funny – like you shouldn’t practice your golf swing while a member of your team is pitching an idea.  Or a male boss staring at a female employee’s chest.  But there are some occupational hazards of modern day leadership that could put you in the bad boss category:

  • Failing to acknowledge people in the hall – Has your organization grown rapidly? Are there interns in the corridor whose name you are embarrassed to admit you don’t know?  There is only one boss – it’s easy for people to know your name.  Ask for a chart of interns with names and photos.    Smile and say hello.
  • Multi-tasking – people want your full attention. Yet we live in a world where multi-tasking is a survival skill.  E-mail has set expectations that people get instant gratification and response.  We want to take notes while someone speaks, maybe on a laptop or an iPad.  How is this impacting your effectiveness as a leader?
  • Claiming an open door, then “glaring” at someone who stops by without an appointment – your busy day is not their problem. If you are too busy to be interrupted, close your door.

Has Rupert Murdoch Raised the Table Stakes for Crisis Response?

Rupert Murdoch has always been a bit of a maverick.  And he’s had his share of scandals.   And you can’t spend decades in media and publishing, amassing an empire of his size and influence, without also experiencing moments where your hero status (launch of The Daily, anyone?) quickly becomes goat status.

But even I was surprised by the decision to cease publication of the UK’s leading tabloid in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Since then, some have pointed out that this decision is largely a publicity stunt, because NewsCorp will pick up the readership, and transfer the advertising revenue, to other properties.

But it does beg the question about the table stakes when it comes to a crisis.  Those of us in that business often counsel clients that their reputation, and even their business, are at stake when it comes to crises.  And we’ve certainly seen companies that never really recovered from a large scale event – ValuJet/AirTran, Lehman Brothers and Exxon, to name a few.  But it’s rare to see a company decide to just close its doors in the wake of a scandal.

Does Murdoch’s decision to just close up shop, displacing many innocent employees in the process, create a new world order where the table stakes are even higher in a crisis?   Or will the world view this much like the ValuJet changing its name to AirTran scenario?