Sunday, February 8, 2015

Disruption Means Nothing without Leadership

It’s not uncommon to come across a blog post, column or article that laments the status quo or the notion of being stuck in the old way of doing things in public relations.  The article usually makes the case for disruption, equating it with forward-thinking leadership.  But it’s a mistake to assume that with disruption automatically comes leadership.

Or put more plainly, and as the cliché goes, anyone kick the bucket over but does that require vision, and most importantly, is that real leadership?

Quite often PR is about disruption. When there is a need for change there is a need for effective communication.  Not uncommonly, part of the change is in the way in which we communicate.  With this in mind, PR and disruption often go together.

When you work as a PR consultant or in a PR firm, you get to see all types of leadership styles, and you start to see which ones work best for the individual leader.  Many leaders may at first need to shake things up, to disrupt, if you will.  But there are still others who disrupt without leading.  These are the ones that aren’t all that specific about what they will do once they’ve attacked the status quo.

I once worked with a firm that had one young manager who considered himself a rebel.  To him that was a pretty cool moniker, and one easily embraced by both manager and staff.

But a true rebel can be very hard to follow.  Rebels, almost by definition, need a foe. Usually that foe is management and sometimes, painfully, a client.

So when this rebel became management, he didn’t know what to do.  His rebel tendencies led him to create imaginary foes to perpetuate whatever cult of personality he had built.

But the problem was, the organization’s goals and priorities got lost and the organization suffered. Those who still remember him, describe him as a shooting star at the company, one who fizzled out quickly.

True Leaders can be Disruptive 

True leaders may in fact be very disruptive, but they usually never introduce change without a clear and specific vision for the future.  They understand that solving problems and coming up with breakthrough ideas is just the beginning.  To get a team to accomplish organizational goals, they know they must get individual team members to achieve their personal bests and to contribute to the team. 

They know they must invest the time and energy to nurture and encourage staff development.  This requires the leader to have a broader skillset than the one-dimensional disruptor.  The leader must be willing to spend a lot of time on the little things, the day-to-day, the individualized follow-up with each employee on each project.

This can come off as micro-managing at first, but once expectations are understood, the good leader knows when to back away and become less of a micro-manager.  The leader has patience, and provides guidance and counsel as needed.  And above all, the good leader is in it for the long term, and that means perseverance.

Disruption can be a very good thing for any organization, but it can only be effective when a leader delivers it with a vision, a plan, and a commitment to seeing it through.

No comments:

Post a Comment