Disruption is a well-used word these days. We hear about disruptive technologies and disruptive companies. But companies are not disruptive, people are. Disruptive people advocate ideas, influence authority and drive change - without them all disruption is bound to fail.
Disruptive leaders are some of the most captivating individuals of our time. They interrupt the status quo in business and politics. Being disruptive is something we increasingly see among the women who lead business today and who will in the future. These women are at odds with the dominant culture and are intent on changing their organizations from within.
Today’s female leaders don’t look or act like the current generation of senior executives. Take Marissa Mayer (below) the current CEO of Yahoo, for instance. She is not your typical Fortune 500 CEO.
In an effort to right Yahoo’s ship, Mayer has repeatedly pushed the company’s employees, board and investors to the edge of their comfort zones. She unpopularly banned working from home at Yahoo, for which she met a firestorm of bad publicity. She has made sharp acquisitions and ruffled feathers by ordering engineering teams to scrap their plans and start over.
Women business leaders like Mayer get to their positions of influence by doing the thing they were most likely taught not do as girls: be disruptive. Doing the unexpected is exactly what disruption is about, and it’s what these women do well.
Disruptive women will be the role models for the coming generations of female entrepreneurs and business leaders. You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 female CEO to be a disruptive leader, but you can glean some clear lessons from them:
Disruptive women raise their hand and say 'I did that'
Prepare to go under the microscope
In the upper tiers of organizations, women become increasingly scarce. Today, only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women - that’s 27 women. To put that in perspective, in 1995 there were none. The shortage of women in leadership tends to heighten their visibility and thereby the scrutiny they face as leaders. Some women become risk averse in this situation. Others stand out as disruptors.
Forget about being popular or even liked
Disruptive leaders know they aren’t there to win a popularity contest. When disruptive women assert themselves, they are quickly labeled as tough, or mean, or worse. Yahoo’s Mayer didn’t win many friends when she banned working from home. Leading isn’t about being popular; it’s about making decisions that will keep your company strong. Set your sights on being respected for your decisions, rather than liked.
Sticks to your guns
Disruptive businesswomen are confident in making the tough choices that will benefit the whole. They find problems that need to be solved, come up with solutions and convince others (board, staff, customers) that they’re right. They walk the line between decisive and difficult because their views tend to be different. To be a great leader, you must be willing to make unpopular decisions and incur the anger that sometimes ensues without faltering, and without apology.
Take credit and give credit
According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 43 percent of Americans indicate that what holds women back from the top jobs is a higher standard, where women have to do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves. This is how the game is played. Disruptive women raise their hand and say 'I did that'. They also take more than their share of the blame and give credit where it’s deserved. Take a page from their playbook; strike a balance between tooting your own horn and recognizing the contributions of your team, by doing so you earn respect and loyalty.
The disruptive leaders of today are paving the way for women to feel comfortable challenging the status quo. Last year, women started an average of 1,200 new businesses each day and women-owned business grew at 1.5 times the national growth average - women are making moves in business at all levels. You can be one of them. Choose to be a powerful force in business and entrepreneurship. Choose to be a disruptor who will change the world.