The Value of Positive Disruptive Leadership
“Increasing globalization, widespread technological innovation and pressure on business to customize products and services have created an international business environment that would be unrecognizable to the manager of fifteen years ago.”
While the above comment could very easily apply to the current corporate world reality, this is in fact a 1995 description of the challenges facing leadership outlined in a government-funded special report titled Enterprising Nation: Renewing Australia’s Managers to Meet the Challenges of the Asia–Pacific Century. This report was a landmark management and leadership development blueprint that became widely known as The Karpin Report.
While my international readers might be quick to dismiss this as simply an Australian issue, let’s fast forward 21 years from that 1995 report to the current challenges of global leadership and the question has to be asked… what’s changed?
Certainly there is still increasing globalization, there’s still widespread technological innovation and disruption, and there’s still the pressure on business to customize products and services in a competitive local and global economy.
Changing Leadership Development
The question of what’s changed in leadership development is quite concerning. Stay with me here while I again refer to some local Australian research I would be very surprised is not reflective of the broader international corporate world.
In a special leadership issue of the June edition of the Human Resource Director magazine, it was reported that a Hudson survey of over 100 HR leaders suggests that just under 50% of Australian companies operate without an intentional leadership development strategy. Again, I would be surprised if this was not reflective of the broader global corporate world.
When you consider this survey result alongside the global research on organizational trust from the Edelman Group that suggests “nearly one in three employees don’t trust their employer”, the urgency for organizations to get their leadership development programs in place becomes very clear.
The good news, again from the Edelman 2016 Trust Barometer, is organizational leaders who can earn the trust of their employees will be more engaged and more likely to speak positively on social media about their company… and interestingly, an employee talking about their company on social media is more likely to be trusted by others than a CEO talking about the company on social media.
Rather than going into a lengthy list of what needs to be covered and achieved through a leadership development program, which at the core of its foundation would need to be integrity and a leaders’ capacity to earn, build and maintain trust, let’s consider just one area of leadership development I refer to as positive disruptive leadership and the organizational and individual benefits that can be gained from its practice.
Positive Disruptive Leadership
In an article written by HRD magazine’s Iain Hopkins, he quotes Greg Keith, the CEO of one of Australia’s leading accounting firms, Grant Thornton, who said “Our view is that the client experience is the end game and the people experience is the beginning game.” By the ‘people experience’ Keith was referring to creating exceptional at-work experiences that are meaningful for employees.
Just one strategy they’ve introduced at Grant Thornton, demonstrating their commitment to provide exceptional at-work experience, is paradoxically to provide employees with an opportunity to not be at work through gaining early access to their long-service leave.
This means after being with the firm for two years, any employee can access an additional week’s leave that is simply deducted from their long-service leave accumulation.
As CEO of Grant Thornton, Keith has a strong executive leadership background in people and culture and is an inspirational example of how great leadership can positively disrupt traditional working conditions for employees to create more valuable at-work experiences.
Organizational and Individual Benefits
Research highlighted by Dik, Byrne and Steger also shows that leaders who create at-work experiences that increase an employee’s sense of meaning will reap a host of organizational benefits, as well as individual wellbeing benefits to the employee, and this one of a range of positively disruptive initiatives being implemented by the Grant Thornton group is also a good example of how to create at-work experiences that are meaningful even when the work itself may not provide a sense of meaning for the employee… not everyone will gain a sense of meaning from the work they do, but it is possible to gain a sense of meaning through their broader at-work experiences.
It’s the implementation of these types of positively disruptive strategies within the workplace that helps build employee trust with their leaders. The evidence clearly shows that when leaders earn and maintain employees’ trust through intentional promises and actions, there is an increased potential for the business to thrive and for their people to flourish.