Leading Through Disruption

Read the third of our four reports from his year's Next Generation of Female Leaders Program. This week's report from the Susan Alberti Syndicate looked at 'Leading Through Disruption'. The report is based on indepth interviews with key industry leaders and their own academic and social research.

The Susan Alberti Syndicate

Pictured L-R: Sally Marasco, Sheena Wilson (syndicate mentor), Michelle DePasquale, Shanna Livinsgtone, Tanya Ferguson.  Absent: Sarah Dunn (joined via videolink)



This sydnicate chose to focus the scope of their research to how leaders personally navigate their stakeholders through disruption internally, within their own spheres of influence. 


This Melbourne based syndicate undertook qualitative interviews with influential leaders including:
  • Lisa Paul, AO PSM Company Director: Navitas, Programmed, APM, Social Ventures Australia, Bond University
  • Doug Hilton, Director, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute
  • Kevin Luscombe Executive Chairman: Growth Solutions Group (GSG)
  • Ann Sherry AO Chairman, Carnival Australia
  • Penny Locaso, Happiness Hacker, Bkindred
  • Sally Capp, Lord Mayor, Melbourne
  • Alexis George, Deputy CEO, ANZ
  • John Marasco Managing Director, Colliers International

Study Objectives

The group conducted their interviews through four lenses:
  1. The leaders’ own experiences of disruption as it relates to them and their existing organisation, particularly at different stages of their career;
  2. Key learnings and how these learnings have shaped them as leaders;
  3. How they recognised the disruption and led their stakeholders through it; and
  4. How they handle the pace of change that disruption is now creating and assist their people to absorb such change in a healthy way

Key Insights 

The word ‘Disruption’ reached far beyond what is commonly understood to represent ‘disruption’ today - namely the digital-led innovation, automation and social media causing a shift in customer appetite and expectation.  

Personal disruption, either caused by an external event outside of their control, or a desire for self-disruption, has shaped the way these leaders recognised and navigated their business & teams through a broader disruption. This typically took place over a period of time outside of the industry they operated.

Here’s their top five key insights:

  1. A leader must be able to anticipate impending disruption, and proactively establish and execute the right strategy to manage through it; 
  2. The ability to face disruption head on and lead an organisation through it, requires the right team – strategic talent acquisition is an imperative; 
  3. Leading through disruption is not just about strategy – leadership must be highly skilled at bringing people along for the journey. The right narrative, transparency and expert communication are critical factors in this. At the same time, recognising that you will never bring everyone along; 
  4. 'Change fatigue’ is real, and good leaders recognise this and plan their people strategies with this understanding, in order that the pace of change required to push through disruption phases does not unwittingly leave people behind or disenfranchised. 
  5. As leaders, recognizing the lessons learned as we push through phases or incidents of personal disruption, or, as we watch and learn how others manage this, can provide valuable insights and lessons for the way we might approach disruption in the workplace going forward. 

Memorable Quotes from the Leaders Interviewed

"If you are successful you owe it to the community to give back"

“Pick the people in the company that are the A team. And then formally make another group the B team – the competitor to debate the idea”

“Create teams of people that disrupt. Appoint with the ability to contribute, people may contradict the boss.”

“You may have to change your leadership style”

“You must understand what you stand for."

“Don’t keep it secret. Involve and reward everyone. Then people understand why and are engaged. Get input before you accelerate directions”

“Review the data. Invest in data analytics – so you know what is really happening. Be prepared to get the data, accept the data is real and don’t take to heart. ‘The truth will set you free – but first it may piss you off’

“You can never have enough market intelligence and insights. Twitter et al can largely be a frivolous sport, but with the right experienced analytics the resulting insights are based in real trends of public thinking.”

“The role of board sis to have constant external radar. The board should have information on what are the changes in this category. Boards often wait for the agenda. They get to the end of the meeting to discuss strategy and have run out of time and it’s dismissed.”

“The challenge for directors is to consider if the suspicion is true? Directors should ask the 5 why’s and push until you get to the root.”

“Disruption is not offensive .it’s a journey”

Susan Alberti Group

Susan was selected by the Syndicate because they recognised her inspirational and courageous leadership over many years, in multiple fields of endeavour as a Victorian. They wanted to understand the breadth of change she has led. Reading about and spending time with Susan over lunch early on in this project, confirmed that ‘Disruption’ was really forced upon Susan, due to personal tragedy. Her resilience, tenacity and drive enabled her to turn that personal tragedy into a multitude of positive outcomes.


Further Reading

More on our Next Gen 2019 Graduates
Read about Next Gen's 2020 Reinvention
Read group 1's report on Leadership in the Digital Age
Read group 2's report Natural Born Leaders
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