As a strong advocate of an engaged workplace, I was apprehensive about this executive education session – “Disruptive Leaders are Good for Business” – given by Dick Brandt, Executive Director of Lehigh University’s Iacocca Institute. Dick is a well-respected international consultant and frequent speaker on leadership, and I was intrigued with this particular topic.
Dick talked about Apple’s Steve Jobs and Tesla’s Elon Musk and how their “shared genius” and business success were based on their vision, obsession with design perfection, and conviction taken to the extreme. He also mentioned Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as a disruptive and difficult leader. The style of these men, who transformed major industries, may be “abusive, arrogant, and intolerant” — opposite the servant leadership style found in engaged workplaces. Disruptive leaders, according to Dick, are “noted for their determination – a trait that actually dwarfs all other skills.” As a result, “people skills and collaboration may be left behind.”
Jobs, Musk, and Bezos are not the poster boys for running Firms of Endearment. Yet, one can’t argue about their business success. Truly transformative, disruptive leaders are rare, and it’s important to learn from them — acknowledging both the positive and negative aspects of their management styles.