Disruptive leadership – a new fad or a trend that’s here to stay?



As programme lead for the IN4.0 Access Disruptive Innovation Accelerator  I was recently invited to chair a round table discussion on Disruptive Leadership at UCLAN’s Leadership Hub’s Conference Beyond Leadership.



I was joined by leaders at all levels from both public and private sector organisations who have the challenges of leading in local councils, the NHS, schools, academia, charities, legal, professional services, start-ups, manufacturing and technology firms.



The one thing we all had in common was that in today’s world of continuous disruption, as leaders we know we can’t get too comfortable. As new technologies are advancing at lightning pace, the political, economic and social factors in our external environment place pressures on us to create change and lead it through. Getting some new insights and perspectives into this emerging field of leadership was something we were all keen to seek.



So, what is disruptive leadership all about and why is it a big deal?  What do disruptive leaders look like? Is Disruptive Leadership just a new fad or a trend that’s here to stay?  And does every business need disruptive leaders?



Here’s what we discovered over our 45 minute discussion.



What is disruptive leadership and what do disruptive leaders look like?

At its most basic level, to disrupt is to change the way people think or change the way things are done. Businesses such as Netflix, SpaceX, Amazon and Apple have been disrupting entire business models, creating new markets and entire industries. At the helm of these organisations have been disruptors.  Leaders who haven’t been afraid to shake things up and who have challenged the status quo.  These leaders have been creating change, not just responding to it. Knocking out established players along the way.  Professionally inquisitive, critical but open to what others think, they have been challenging practices, norms and behaviours by looking at problems in new ways in order to find and create better solutions.  Often creative visionaries and usually brutally honest, they’ve pushed boundaries and haven’t accepted the normal benchmarks of success.



Is disruptive leadership a fad or a trend?  

Disruptive leadership is perhaps nothing new. Its essence has roots stretching back a long way. Throughout history, we’ve always had trailblazers who have embodied a disruptive leadership approach.  Think of the pioneers pre and post the first industrial revolution.



Does every business need disruptive leaders?  

Today’s pace of technological change suggests so.  We need leadership capability in organisations which is able to both constructively disrupt and lead through disruption. Leaders with courage and confidence, a passion for innovation and who are willing to take risks.  Leaders at all levels of our organisations who can create a culture and environment where failure is embraced as learning and feedback because it’s viewed as an essential part of growth and success.  Crucially, we need leaders who embrace diversity and inclusion because they recognise and value the different perspectives that a diverse workplace brings. These skills and attitudes can be developed but we need to start early by encouraging this in schools.


Need help with upskilling leaders to scale up your business through disruptive leadership learning and disruptive innovation application?



Join the very best manufactures, technical disruptors, industry leaders and innovators on the IN4.0 Access Disruptive Innovation Accelerator delivered in partnership with UCLAN, NatWest, BAE Systems, The Landing at Media City and Sensor City.





JO BRITTON, founder and director of PACE Development has been shortlisted for Business Start-Up of the year in the FL National Awards & Summit 2019, North West, Ireland and Wales region.


Now in its 10th year, the awards are designed to demonstrate enterprise, talent and innovation from across the region’s thriving business community and have become one of the most recognised and well-attended business awards in the region.


Jo Britton, a Manchester based marketing and manufacturing specialist is founder of PACE (Personal and Corporate Effectiveness) Development which delivers personal brand consultancy, mentorship and coaching. Her business uses a fresh approach to nurturing and developing talent, by combining marketing and branding with the latest thinking from the world of neuroscience to help women in industry accelerate their careers.


Says Jo, ‘I’m thrilled to have been shortlisted for this prestigious award in our first year of business. I was inspired to launch PACE Development having worked in engineering, manufacturing and technology based sectors and becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of women in senior roles in these industries. PACE Development is on a mission to help women in industry accelerate their careers and industry to access a massively untapped pool of female talent which can make a huge difference to business productivity and growth.”


Since launching in 2009, the Forward Ladies Awards recognise leaders and organisations who have made the greatest impact on the regional and wider UK economy over the last 12 months. Regional winners will be announced at an exclusive awards lunch on Friday, 13 September at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Manchester and then go on to compete at the National Final held in November.

How minding your language at work can help you and your business achieve more



By Jo Britton


No, this isn’t a piece about swearing, cursing or bad language in the workplace. Well, actually it is a bit about bad language at work but maybe not the kind you’re thinking.


I recently read some research that said we have around 50,000 thoughts each day and that a whopping 70% are negative ones. That’s 35,000 pesky thoughts holding us back from achieving what we want to achieve.


Let’s say you work in an organisation of 250 people. That’s over 8.7m negative thoughts being produced and circulating the workplace. Every. Single. Day. Now when you, your team and your business are working towards goals, that’s a lot of unhelpful thinking creating blocks and barriers to progress and results.


Even the most confident and positive amongst us can get caught up in unhelpful thinking patterns and disempowering language. What if this fails? This is never going to work. This is too hard. The problem with this is….And the list of negative, fear-based or judgemental self-talk continues.


How we talk to ourselves can have a big bearing on our resulting behaviour and actions. Much of what we feel, understand and accomplish happens as a result of our self-talk. If our inner dialogue is unhelpful, then so may be the way we respond, the action we take and the results we get.


Think about this in a business context. At some point, we all face high pressure situations, times of challenge and change. The conversations we have with ourselves, what we think and how we respond in these situations can determine the level of success we have.


It strikes me that in business, we spend a lot of time on business plans, marketing strategies, scenario planning, risk analysis and reporting on numbers. Yet not quite so much on the psychological aspects which when we master, can really make the difference to our results.


It’s well documented in the field of sports that athletes spend a lot of time and effort on the psychology of their performance. Yes, they analyse their competition, focus on their strategy, tactics and physical training. And they also invest in their mindset. High performing athletes use techniques such as visualisation and mental rehearsal. Crucially, they mind their language by having conversations with themselves that keep them focused on success, whilst staving off any negative thoughts of potential failure.


How many businesses do the same in preparation for achieving their ambitions? Imagine what could be achieved if we devoted more time and effort to priming our brains as well as our business plans.


So, what can you do to create a collectively focused and success-oriented organisational mindset and create better outcomes?


Here are three simple things you can do straight away.


1. Make believe with your team. When you’re planning or communicating your next project or deliverable with your team, invest some time with them imagining and visualising the result. What does success look like? How does it feel? What are you saying to yourselves when you’ve achieved it? How do you benefit? And how will you celebrate when you’ve achieved it?


2. Mind your language by asking yourself better questions. Negative thinking is often linked to fear. And it is fear that holds us back from achieving goals. One of the common ways we create fear (and therefore negative thoughts or outcomes) is by asking ourselves really bad questions. For instance, what if this project fails? can make us feel uninspired, dispirited and disempowered. Whereas, asking the better question what will happen when this project succeeds? helps to fuel the imagination and create the motivation to take positive action. Both questions are asking for information about success, but the second question activates positive motivation.


3. Choose your words carefully. Your words matter. A lot. When confronted with a negative thought, or unhelpful inner self-talk, you can mind your language by choosing different and more helpful words. How? First notice and observe the negative thought or language. Then choose different words which help you to reframe and see things differently. For example



Instead of                    Try

The problem is              Here’s the challenge

Plan A didn’t work       Good job there are 25 more letters of the alphabet

This is too hard             This may take a bit more time and effort and can be done

We can’t do it                We can always learn so we’ll keep trying


By practising using more helpful words, you’ll naturally find over time, this will become your default way of thinking. As a result, you will develop a more success-oriented mindset.


If you’d like help to achieve better outcomes, more quickly with greater clarity and confidence, ask us about our coaching support