Alumni Insight: Is disruption the key to an innovative and impactful leadership team?

Insight by Lisa Howell (MBA, 2016), Director / Founder of Blackshaw Howell Consulting Ltd & Amanda Gardiner (Economics, 1992) Director / Founder of Coach Execs Ltd & Co-Founder of Project Disruption.

Senior teams often struggle to meet evolving business needs due to their resistance to change and a static approach. This resistance can stifle new ideas and initiatives across the organisation. As an alternative, a disruptive leadership approach can foster an environment where innovation, collaboration, and creativity can thrive, aligning the entire team with the business's dynamic requirements.

Research investigating the potential of a different leadership philosophy (Blackshaw-Howell) is the foundation of Project Disruption. Project Disruption is a tailored leadership coaching programme we launched in 2021.

The research revealed:  
•    Only 19% of leaders strongly believe that they control and influence situations 
•    Only 3% of leaders strongly believe that they find solutions to problems
•    Only 4% of leaders strongly agreed that they were able to realise potential in all that they do
•    Only 7% of leaders strongly agree that they are usually open-minded
•    A staggering 72% of leaders agree that they accept situations for what they are

It is clear that during uncertain times, leadership teams and individuals struggle, and the strength of their convictions weaken. Uncertainty is a constant, which begs the questions - are existing models and structures of leadership under threat? And what does this mean for your business?

The Disruption Approach

“Disruption” might sound like a scary concept, but in reality it is an honest and authentic look at when business issues arise – taking a creative look at the possible solutions and the implementation of a creative innovative real time solution. 

A disruptive leadership approach will unearth those who do not want to change, leaders who see only problems and those who are fearful. Disruption enables senior teams to work towards opportunities as leaders, and not avoid different ways of working by simply continuing to do what they’ve always done.

In simpler terms, disruption involves learning to change current leadership styles. 

It’s about adapting effectively, by both challenging and supporting each other's approaches. These approaches can evolve into those required to operate flexibly in volatile, uncertain, and ever-changing environments. 

The elements of the Disruption Model described

Project disruption diagram

In our Disruption Model we recognise four challenges that leaders often struggle with during uncertain times: 

Uncertainty – Faced with uncertainty, some leaders are less resilient than others. A disruptive approach unearths fears around uncertainty and coaching can introduce techniques and tools to enable leaders to excel during uncertain and chaotic world-wide business pressures.

Adversity – Sometimes skills don’t exist or self-limiting beliefs and imposter syndrome festers amongst leaders. Adversity doesn’t need to be a barrier to momentum and success if leaders develop the right skills and techniques.

Inertia – Stagnation and lack of desire to think outside the box and attempts to remain in the status quo can lead to a state of inertia. This needs to be exposed to move forward. 

Opportunity Avoidance – Avoiding opportunities can often happen during uncertain times. The disruption model sees no idea as a bad idea. Opportunities and ideas are embraced so that the organisation can grow and develop, allowing individuals to thrive.

Opportunity for change

This is the start of a new science of leadership emerging from many years of uncertainty and a necessity for organisations to operate in a significantly different way. If you are interested in a disruptive leadership approach then these are some questions that will support the disruption journey with your senior team: 

•    Are your standard responses working for you?
•    Are your competitors taking the same route?
•    Is there a better way?
•    What are you missing?
•    Is there an opportunity for change?

If yes to any of the above then disruptive leadership might be the answer for you.

Three Steps

To get you started, here’s an approach to enable the development of a thriving disrupted senior team that gives you the edge.:

1. Diagnostic roadmap 
It is important to identify the obstacles that are preventing you from reaching new heights. Stop to analyse the whole living and breathing entity of your organisation. It will make you see where the issues and opportunities lie. 

2. Solution delivery of disruptive leadership
Consider individualised and team coaching to develop your leaders to be truly empowered, to embrace and adopt disruptive leadership tactics and practices. This provides the motivating pivot and strength of difference.

3. Sustainable disruptive ideology
Embrace new skills and mindsets. These should reverberate through the organisation as a direct result of impactful and inspiring leadership.

Disruption in practice

Disruption steps the leadership team out of their comfort zone, ready to agitate positively and competitively. 

Performance, accountability, creativity and innovation are leveraged in a refreshing way. This is not a one-off exercise either – the senior team is constantly learning to adapt, and therefore they also start leading the way naturally, and increase their own motivation. This cascades and nurtures the rest of the organisational culture to thrive as a result.

If you continue to do what you’ve always done then you’ll get what you’ve always had and remain in the status quo. A disruptive leadership approach requires a little bravery but the results can be transformative. Is it time for you to shake it up?

About Lisa Howell and Amanda Gardiner

Together, Lisa Howell and Amanda Gardiner are Co-Founders of Project Disruption. They combine their change and transformation consulting expertise with extensive experience in executive, team, and leadership coaching. The power they bring as disrupters, change agents and psychological coaches significantly benefits their clients. As well as an MBA from Leeds University Business School, Lisa is a graduate of The University of Teesside (BSc, hons Psychology); A graduate from The University of Leeds, Amanda also holds an MBA from The University of Reading Business School. They are both Senior Executive and Business Coaching Practitioners of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and work locally in the UK and globally with multicultural and diverse teams and projects.