How Successful Leaders Navigate Disruption
Success during disruption is a function of opportunity, humility, talent, and focus – the elimination of distraction.
Ego hinders meaningful contribution. Avoid Superhero Syndrome.
Superhero-leaders work too hard rescuing others.
It feels good to jump in. But when you do other people’s work, they resent you.
The urgency you solve is likely someone else’s job. Why are you diluting their contribution by jumping in?
Solving urgencies and neglecting priorities bolsters your ego. “See how busy I am!? But in the end, you let others know they don’t matter.
It’s dangerous to do other people’s work for them.
Vulnerability answers ego:
- Trust others. When you rescue competent people, you minimize talent and promote disengagement.
- Let others in. Ego creates loneliness. Vulnerability seeks input.
Disruption drains you. Self-care isn’t about being feeble.
Everything’s worse when you’re weary. Fatigue magnifies obstacles and problems.
Rest enables grit. Sleep supports stamina.
You can redline for a few days, but everyone crashes unless they make pitstops. The ability to thrive during disruption requires rejuvenation.
Rest enables restraint. A good night’s sleep makes people less irritating. Relationships require patience, but fatigue is the enemy of forbearance.
An impatient leader ends up a lonely leader.
Uncertainty seeks stability. Protect rhythms and develop rituals.
Meaningful work suffers when you chase disruptions. It might seem like you’re getting something done, but it’s often insignificant.
It takes two weeks to stop splashing around and find a rhythm during disruption.
Rhythm and ritual provide points of stability in uncertain environments.
Distraction damages effectiveness. Vibrating cell phones, email notifications, and unnecessary interruptions dilute contribution.
Leaders who thrive in disruption:
- Express gratitude frequently.
- Appreciate personal conversation. “How are you?”
- Eliminate clutter. Unnecessary distraction limits contribution.
- Solve problems. Talent rises to solve problems that matter. Problems become opportunities for solution-seeking teams.
Which of the above ideas is most relevant during disruption?
What leadership practices might you add to the above list?
How to Get into a Rhythm at Work if you Can’t Stick to a Schedule (HBR)
How to Lead Effectively in a Disrupted World (CCL)
Brene’ Brown’s Netflix Special Busts Six Vulnerability Myths (PT)
“Problems become opportunities for solution-seeking teams.” — Excellent point and important to remember these days. Especially when the problem is how to adapt old routines to the new normal.
Thanks Michelle. I wish you well as you adapt your way forward.
Great post! How do you expect your teammates to solve issues if you always take on that responsibility. Ask what the process will be, let them answer, ask if they thought about “x” and ask to be kept in the loop.
Rhythm and ritual provide points of stability in uncertain environments- great point specially in current situations.
5. Give permission to rest, permission to sleep, clear priorities, and permission to leave some things undone at this time.
And thank you for, “It takes two weeks to stop splashing around and find a rhythm during disruption.” I hear you saying, “The rhythm has to emerge, it can’t be forced or imposed.”
Thanks for your calm and sometimes pointed words during this nutty season.
Thanks Robert. Yes, important insight. I’ll add, model the way by resting yourself. You know leaders can give permission, but people will follow their example if it isn’t aligned with their words.
Thanks for this. I loved your mention of “Vulnerability seeks input.” During disruption, it can be so tempting to be the answer person, the person with a plan, the one who calmly manages it all. Being vulnerable, however, is important. It allows people to see the leader as a person who is not perfect and yet does persevere in times of great change and turmoil.
After reading through this post I was reminded of the Arline safety announcement. “In the event of a cabin decompression always place your mask on yourself before helping others.” Having the ability to know your own limitations and taking an inventory of your status makes us better and safer leaders. During my time working as an acute care therapist I developed a cough following a short cold. I didn’t want to use time off as my wedding was coming up in a month. While pushing myself to go in, I developed walking Pneumonia. I could barely climb a flight of stairs without being winded for several minutes. My job required me to help older people transition from their beds to walking and so on. If I hadn’t finally called out sick and gone to the doctor, I am sure I would have dropped a patient or fallen myself.
When asked at the end of the post what leadership practices might you add to the above list? I believe I would emphasis the importance of genuine conversations about “How are you?” When I interview patients, I found the reflexive answer is “fine” or “OK”. Once I make an observation about the giant bandage around the knee or arm, then the real complaints start. Thank you for the thoughtful post and lets all try and put our masks on first.
Not only does a leader dilute their team’s contribution by jumping in to solve every problem, that leader teaches them that they don’t need to try very hard to solve their own problems or fix their own mistakes. The leader is leaving the impression that they will come to the rescue in the end regardless. In addition to this, a leader that jumps in to solve problems also robs them of learning the process from start to finish. This, of course, is most applicable when the team is young, perhaps interns. I agree that playing the super hero does diminish a team member’s talent.
I agree that it is satisfying to save the day, but if a leader can’t resist fulfilling that satisfaction then they lack a certain maturity. This is also a self-interested and self-centered practice. If a leader’s impetus for jumping in to solve problems and save a project is a selfish one, I can imagine there are many other qualities that this leader lacks that make them an efficient one. For example, if a leader is swayed by doing what makes them feel like a super hero without thinking about the consequences, they likely make other impulsive, gratifying moves that surely have other, or maybe similar, consequences.
A fifth quality of a leader that thrives in times of disruption is humility. It doesn’t benefit a leader to appear strong in times of disruption when it sets a tone of powering through even when it means below par work and grows anxiety. There’s something very healing about admitting what’s sometimes seen as weakness. Being open and vulnerable brings about connection with others, trust, and support.
Besides showing your team that admitting things are hard is okay, showing your team that finding a way forward during disruptive times is very valuable. It exhibits continuing to be dedicated to reaching goals and the flexibility is takes to change course.