Embracing the Disruptive

By Aash Parmar

[3 minute read]


I have a strong memory that circulates in my mind at times, that might be familiar to you if you’re in any type of leadership.  It’s of sitting around a table with colleagues turning the pages on our personality profile documents.  As we map the diversity of our team up on the whiteboard, there is one lone dot on the wheel in the “Disruptor[1]” section. 

I had come to hate those moments over the years as my natural so called ‘strengths’ were up for all see. ‘Aash the Disruptor’ felt nothing like a strength, and more like a membership card to the not-so-appreciated club filled with people like “Joe the Guy Who Can’t Clap in Time” and “Karen the ‘I Want to See the Manager’ Lady.”  When we arrived at acknowledging my outlying position on the team wheel, the facilitator on this particular day invited our team to see the disruptive voice as a change agent for good. A voice that helps a team assess their past, understand the present, and dream the future differently. As I develop in my own leadership and self-understanding, I’ve been building into that moment by exploring how to take my natural wiring and utilize it for the benefit of the team.

And so, we arrive at today as we now welcome (insert drumroll) “2020, THE Disruptor.”  For some who are wired to think disruptively, this moment in time both breaks our heart and energizes our souls. My heart breaks at the pain of individuals and society reacting to fear and uncertainty, and yet I am energized by the potential of the unknown.  Living in that tension can be hard to navigate but it can be richly beneficial if we can begin to understand how to embrace the disruptive.

  • As Jo Saxton challenges, “At some point in time you just have to agree with the work of the Creator.”[2] The first step to utilizing your gifts for the team is being ok with how you are shaped. Knowing who you are and accepting what you have to offer provides the best foundation for everyone. For a long time, I battled with the ideas that came to mind at our planning meetings.  In my eyes they ranged from being negative to overly optimistic and I felt annoyed at myself for not being able to let that voice go.  It was only when I started (and kept on) accepting that it is ok to be this guy, that I began to breathe easier. 
  • Knowing what to say is the easy part, knowing how to say it is more difficult. Contrarians and disruptors will mostly likely never have to work too hard on identifying a perspective to offer. Conveying that perspective with tact, clarity, and care without losing potency is like working the dials rather than flicking a switch. Each situation where you bring your perspective is unique so working on your emotional intelligence is paramount. This means that your self-care and self-awareness needs to be intentional rather than incidental.  We need to make a plan and not just hope that our intentions will be understood (or remembered) by chance.
  • Find Filters. Filters are people and processes who hear your perspectives first and know how to check your heart and intentions. This can be as simple as having the ear of someone who knows your heart, so they can trust your words and help you find adjustments to the presentation of them. It could also be a process that you instill to ensure your heart is understood before your words are heard.  These filters protect you, honour others and keep the main thing, the main thing.

I am convinced that as the environment is ripe for new ideas and endeavors, hearing the voices of our Contrarians and Disruptors is key to unearthing the next.  Ensure that your heart is known before your words are heard and let us put our hand to the plough of new tasks, dreams and possibilities.   

[1] By way of a definition, Mark Murphy describes a ‘Disruptor/Adventurer’ as someone who is motivated by risk, change and uncertainty with a hope to make things better. https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2018/11/25/do-people-see-you-as-a-positive-disruptor-or-just-disruptive/#319953c51577

[2] Ready To Rise, Jo Saxton