Disruptive Leadership: Looking Beyond The Horizon

Essay, 2012

21 Pages, Grade: 100



Disruptive leadership stresses the implementation of disruptive innovation in organizations. The following report focuses in linking the relationship between disruptive leadership and a disruptive innovator. Relevant subcomponents were developed which were: Diplomat, Dynamic Innovator and Interpreter. Each subcomponent was further defined by 5 items. The theory was tested through an online questionnaire filled by a diverse group of participants. Reliability analysis and factor analysis on SPSS software enabled to validate the constructs. Finally 14 items defined the overarching construct of disruptive leadership. The results suggested that Disruptive leadership was closely linked to Transformational Leadership. However, linkages to Paternalistic Leadership styles mainly Moral character and Benevolence was unexpected. Lastly, the definition of creativity and its importance for a disruptive leader was defined.

Keywords: Disruptive Innovation, Transformational Leadership, Benevolence, Moral Character, Creativity



he onset of disruptive innovation has shaken the very foundations of the corporate world as seemingly unbeatable companies are losing popularity and market share with the arrival of improved goods and services which are cheaper and capable of attracting new customers. (Christensen, 2008) Consequently, organizations are daily confronted with challenging decisions coupled with risks and opportunities where right steps offer rewards and wrong steps can spell disasters. Hence, there is a growing need of leaders who are adept at implementing organizational practices benefitting the company and maximizing its potential. Several leadership styles have been adopted by leaders to tackle organizational challenges but there has been none which exclusively defines a disruptive leader implementing disruptive innovation.

Disruptive leadership is

Disruptive leadership is defined as a leadership style which integrates disruptive innovation. Accordingly, concepts such as planning, research, innovation, relation with subordinates and customer relations became the focus of the new leadership style. (Macfarquhar, 2012)

defined as a leadership

style which integrates disruptive innovation.

Any leadership theory is defined through a broad range of characteristics such as behavior, traits, outcomes, principles and style of leader. All the aspects were considered in theorizing the constructs of disruptive leadership along with the relations between the subordinates and the disruptive leader. There was a need to answer questions such as: How do subordinates react to disruptive leadership? Do they play an active role or are they forced to passivity by the leader?

The initial research focused on establishing a relationship between disruptive innovation and disruptive leadership. Further, the behavioral traits of a disruptive leader were assessed by establishing the goals of a disruptive innovator. This resulted in the formulation of the following dimensions:-

a) Constant Research

Constant research is important for being competitive. Due to the rapidly accelerating exchange of information and technology, the implementation of ideas and innovation can be achieved faster than ever. Leaders should hence be farsighted, be constantly on the lookout for new ideas and foster creativity within the company/workgroup. A disruptive innovator should furthermore invest heavily into research and development.

b) Constant Feedback

Employees should be encouraged to voice their opinion with regard to new ideas and innovations in order to have as much input as possible. Their new ideas have to be worshipped and taken into account by the leader in order to foster an innovative culture among the employees. He should in addition be appreciative of criticism to encourage the freedom of opinion among the community.

c) Bottom Up Innovation

Executives at the top most level which have the power to drive innovation are seldom close enough to come up with or execute new ideas. Thus, they need to push responsibility down to the lowest level. Bottom up innovation is successful as it means enhanced employee commitment. However, top down innovation should not be ignored as it benefits from direct alignment from a company’s goals. Leaders should employ both the approaches to maximize a company’s potential. Moreover, they should provide sponsorship for this bottom up innovation to survive.

These dimensions are aided by several traits that we identified according to the Leadership-Trait-Approach. They are: farsightedness, supportiveness, open- mindedness, aggressiveness, charisma, and flexibility. Farsightedness belongs to constant research. By being aware of market trends, innovations, and the development of current products a Disruptive Innovator has the required knowledge to make informed decisions for new innovations. Another trait belonging to this dimension is open-mindedness. Being open to new ideas and innovations is the backbone of an innovative company. Supportiveness belongs to constant feedback. Teamwork, which is sustained by supportiveness, is crucial for developing and launching a Disruptive Innovation.

Charisma, flexibility, and aggressiveness cannot unequivocally be attributed to one of the dimensions but are general characteristic that aid Disruptive Innovators. Charisma is needed for establishing business contacts and sustaining good customer and employee relations. Flexibility allows to adapt to new innovations and to disrupt quickly and effectively. Aggressiveness is another trait that aids the Disruptive Innovator in the process of disrupting, by pushing a product forward until it is established on the market.

As the research progressed the characteristics of a Disruptive innovator were implemented to those of a disruptive leader. The subcomponents for a disruptive leader were Diplomat, Dynamic Innovator and Interpreter. The Dynamic Innovator -category aims at testing whether a leader is actually able to invent and develop a disruptive innovation. With the Interpreter- category we wanted to test how aware a leader is of the market he operates in, his competitors, and his own capabilities. This is crucial because Disruptive Innovation can only be successful if it is not disrupted itself. The last category, Diplomat, tests the ability of the leader to relate to his subordinates. As aforementioned a strong interchange between leader and employees is of great importance for Disruptive Innovation and therefore Disruptive Leadership as well.

The development of subcomponents and the testing of the hypothesis with the help of a survey are defined exclusively in the following Methods section.


Subcomponents Development

The scale development progressed through the following stages: defining the three subcomponents, further generating several items for each subcomponent and finalizing the items after peer review.

The general roles of effective leader defined by Henry Minzberg 30 years ago were: interpersonal roles, meaning maintaining the communication internally and externally informational role including collection and interpreting the information within the organization as well as with other entities, and decisional roles including identification and pursuit of opportunities. But bearing in mind the need to consider disruptive innovation which includes thinking outside of the box, outrival of competitors, bottom-up innovation and constant research, the disruptive leader must have some ‘extra’ features to be able to choose, lead and inspire the subordinates in a way that leads to creating innovations. Combining the general roles of a leader with specific modification to fit in disruptive innovation environment, the subcomponents were chosen to be the Diplomat, the Dynamic Innovator and the Interpreter. (Davenport, Leibold, Voelpel, 2006)

Items Generation

Each of the subcomponents describes the innovative leader and implies special skills such a person should possess. Therefore, according to the subcomponents we developed several items having a statement beginning with ‘My supervisor...’.

Subcomponent Diplomat relates to the communicative and networking abilities of the leader. Disruptive leader has to manage the interpersonal communication within the company, ensuring the productivity and wellbeing of subordinates as well as to maintain the networks outside of the company, finding and benefiting from potential partners. Diplomat role of the disruptive innovator encompasses such skills as ability to relate, ability to inspire confidence, ability to communicate, ability to negotiate and ability to adapt. By having corresponding five items describing those skills we believe to measure the diplomat role of the leaders.

Next subcomponent - Dynamic innovator - is concerned about the approaches to creating innovation-facilitating environment. The leader needs to be a boundary less thinker, encourage creative ideas, constant innovation and research. Dynamic innovator role implies that the disruptive leader has a big picture perspective, is open to new ideas, looks beyond the capabilities of the organization, promotes constant research and hires new talents.

The Interpreter role of the disruptive leader ensures that apart from being able to network and facilitate innovation, the leader is also able to interpret and react to the new opportunities. Interpreter role of the leader means that he has solid knowledge of business, knowledge of market place, is able to take the opportunities and able to influence others.

After generating the items for each subcomponent we had a peer review with our colleagues discussing and improving set of items of both groups. The main criticism was the unclear formulation and ambiguity of some items. Also adding some reversed items was proposed to ensure the credibility of the results. Therefore, some changes were made such as rewording and deleting of some items. The table below summaries the 15 final items that we believe would measure the disruptive leader. To measure the responses we used the Likert scale, ranging from 1 to 7, from strongly disagrees to strongly agree. (Table 1)

Data collection procedure

The final survey was created using online platform including the set of items from seven groups. To have a higher response rate as well as diverse respondents profile the collective survey was translated to other languages, in total having the survey available in seven languages: English, German, Chinese, Romanian, Russian, Georgian and Spanish.

The data collection strategy was done through sending personal requests for filling the survey, posting the links in different social networks, as well in specific forums where people could be interested in topic of leadership.


Excerpt out of 21 pages


Disruptive Leadership: Looking Beyond The Horizon
Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
Global Leadership
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disruptive, leadership, disruption, new, innovation, innovative, steve, jobs, apple, leader, innovator, component, spss, global, success, money, effective, style, Disruptive Innovation, Transformational Leadership, Benevolence, Moral Character, Creativity
Quote paper
Suryansh Pant (Author)Christian P. Angern (Author)Darima Pivovarova (Author)Jonida Ndreu (Author), 2012, Disruptive Leadership: Looking Beyond The Horizon, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/231881


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