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How to keep it together in the age of disruption.

By now it’s no surprise to anyone that we live in the age of disruption. We are living through an awkward and clumsy period between the legacy of an industrial based economy in its last gasp, giving way to an ever changing technology based economy.

The creative destruction of iconic businesses like Kodak, Blackberry, Blockbuster and Sears has happened in less than a decade. Who could have imagined such a thing in such a short period of time. For many startup and early growth entrepreneurs, market forces and technology innovations are changing faster than they can react.

In all this disruption, how do you keep it together so you can lead change rather than follow disruption?

Your customers are deluged with marketing messages at every turn. Creating more customer awareness to the value you offer is nearly impossible as attention spans shrink ever more rapidly in a constant flow of messages that clutter the slush pile of the Internet.

Against this disruption, your employees, stakeholders and customers will demand a higher form of leadership than the traditional command and control models of the last century. For you and your business to thrive in all the chaos, here’s my list of the essential leadership qualities you must possess to scale your impact and influence in the age of disruption:

Be close to the customer

Every decision is made with insight and knowledge on the needs of the customer. Customers determine who will lead the market. Leading a customer-focused culture is critical.

Be engaged in the trenches. Leaders must show up with their teams in the operation of the business–to stay grounded in the realities of the business but also to inspire their teams to unleash their talents on a shared vision.

Be in a creative frame of mind. Leaders must incubate and foster creativity and innovation supporting experimentation and failure as necessary ingredients of success.

Be open and transparent. Open communication and transparency foster trust, strengthens all relationships and significantly improves performance and results.

Be humble and empathetic. Empathy is critical not only to morale and performance, but it’s an essential ingredient for connecting and creating value for customers.

Be flexible and adaptable. The 21st century marketplace operates at speeds too great for a rigid frame of mind. Leaders must embrace unpredictable change with dexterity, clarity and confidence. Most of all, leaders must be strategic thinkers focused on the long game and not react to the whims of the marketplace.

Be a constant learner. Acquiring new knowledge, learning new skills and seeking new perspectives and insights will always lead to greater opportunity not to mention turning you into a better human.

Be influential. Leaders must earn and deserve respect to influence others without having to rely on their direct authority. Being remarkable and influential to the success of others is how they do it. Trust comes from authenticity. When your team trusts your methods, they self motivate, activate and engage in the right actions naturally.

Despite the endless information available to us on leadership, to keep this poor old world together surely requires more inspirational leadership in every area of our society. It’s not coming from global corporations or government institutions.

It’s innovative entrepreneurs who are the driving force in the 21st century marketplace–embracing a different leadership ideology that inspires investors, employees, suppliers and customers. Will you count yourself among them?

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