The Rock in Your Shoe

by Dr. Tony Bolden

Many who have claimed to be innovative leaders rested comfortably in the hope that they would continually lead “in the flow”, or by making organizational decisions in advance of impeding change because they believed they’d have an accurate understanding of what laid ahead. Sure there were minor “tweaks” along the way, but these leaders comfortably sat atop inflatable tubes riding the lazy river of predictability – and prayed that the river would never bend.

These leaders were…well…lazy – and that may have been sufficient at some point in time until the business landscape changed and sustained disruption appeared.

The nature of disruptive events in the business environment is that they interrupt the normal ebb and flow. Disruption is not a new concept (in business or life). In fact, all of us seek to maintain some element of order in our daily lives because of our awareness of the ever-present possibility of chaos.

We set alarm clocks so that we don’t oversleep.

We drive within the speed limit (or at least 10 miles within the legal limit to avoid speeding tickets) to decrease the propensity for accidents.

We enjoy the protection of public servants (police officers, firemen and women, politicians) to help maintain the civility of organized society.

Still, the introduction of a “foreign element” (a metaphorical rock in the shoe) can challenge us – in life and within our organizations – and help fuel our fear of chaos and confusion.

One could argue, however, that the introduction of disruption could be positive. For example, traffic congestion could motivate you to find an alternate (and more scenic) route to work. Constrictive market conditions and the loss of key accounts could signal the need for price adjustments and revised customer care policies.

If we’re never introduced to disruption, our lives and our organizations may never benefit from renewed focus and alternate perception. In my eBook The 9 Signs of Effective Leadership, I recall an admonition about the contrasts between effective and ineffective people (ergo, leaders):

“Ineffective people are constantly riding an emotional roller coaster. In this mode of behavior, the best that they can hope for is to get back to middle ground (or “even”), where they were before they became upset. Conversely, the effective person focuses on the post-change future. Whenever an unexpected change or setback occurs, the effective person immediately focuses his or her mind on where they want to be at a future time.”

In essence, effective innovative leaders should embrace disruption, change events, and circumstances that cause us to reevaluate our present state. These “rocks in our shoes” garner our attention for a reason – and we’d do well to pay attention…and react accordingly.

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Innovative Leaders Still WantedDr. Tony Bolden is the Chief Evangelist of The Leader’s Brand. He’s a Sales Professional, Speaker, Trainer, Facilitator, and Organizational Behavior Blogger. Tony earned an MBA in Organizational Psychology and Development, and a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership.

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  1. Great article, Tony. You raise a great point about change catalysts and discontinuity.

    It’s important to respond effectively to external events–when they happen. What are your thoughts about *creating* these events?

    • Hi Clay – and thanks for your comment/question.

      To some extent, I can see the merits of “creating disruption” in the workplace. Not that we want leaders tossing hand grenades into cubicle farms (metaphorically speaking, of course), but leaders should be confident in extending their comfort zones (and by proxy, the comfort zones of those who follow them) to achieve sustained success.

      Think of the rise in the plethora of hack-a-thons and crowd-sourcing activities in the software industry. Organizational leaders are purposely seeking ways to “break” their products so that they can be enhanced during the rebuilding process. Disruption should create preparation, and initiating disruption in a “safe” environment (vs. responding to a change event in react-mode) should give us confidence in creating new ways of work.

      Thanks again for contributing…and you’ve got some AWESOME content at your site as well.

  2. Who and where to condense this summer on fair, slice your information.

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