How Love Empowers a Disruption Strategy with Charlene Li

Digital disruption is increasingly seen as an inevitable force that every industry leader needs to not only plan for but embrace. Whether you are currently a leader within your industry or a newcomer who holds just a small piece of the pie, a disruption strategy (if you have the appetite for it) could put you ahead of your competitors in years to come. You need only ask yourself which side of the disruption paradigm you want to be on.

It’s not often that we come across a book, a concept or an idea which resonates with us as deeply as did Charlene Li’s latest book, The Disruption Mindset: Why Some Organizations Transform While Others Fail. Li is both precise and persuasive in proposing a mindset and an approach which enables leaders to thrive in the current climate of digital disruption. 

She helps us to understand the impact a disruption strategy has on leaders, employees and other stakeholders. Li also provides useful advice to ensure the successful implementation of a disruption strategy. She takes on a topic which for many may seem overwhelming and provides both clarity and an implementable blueprint to transform not just organizations but entire industries.   

We see many symmetries between Li’s disruption mindset and LQ leadership. In order to give our readers a way forward which can be applied easily and immediately, we discuss ten key areas in-which LQ empowers a disruption mindset. 

10 Ways in-which LQ Empowers a Disruptive Transformation Strategy

The Human Element of Disruptive Transformation

Li defines disruptive transformation as “the process of changing from one state to another”. Not only is change hard, it is messy, particularly the psychological elements which massive change entails. Relationships are upturned, the status quo is disrupted and people experience insecurity, trepidation and anxiety. 

When an organization has a high LQ culture people feel loved and embraced. They are willing to try new things and they are no longer afraid of failure. LQ leadership requires that leaders actively and systematically create a movement to achieve a future desired state. LQ cultures therefore have a vision and a purpose and a why that everyone in the organization can understand and more importantly, believe in. 

While Li says that “growth is the magic elixir that soothes the disrupted soul of the organization” it could also be said that love is the magic elixir that soothes the disrupted soul of the organization. Love makes disruptive change more palatable. It makes individuals more resilient and organizations more capable of surviving the upheavals that disruptive transformation entails. 

Culture plays a big part in bringing people together to embrace a disruption strategy. Having a high LQ culture i.e. a culture in-which love permeates each aspect of the organization’s identity, from its rituals, to its lore, to the stories people tell, really helps keep people focused, engaged and loyal through trying times.

Li uses Southwest Airlines as a case study to demonstrate the link between culture and strategy. Southwest Airlines has been profitable for 46 consecutive years which is a notable achievement for an airline. Southwest Airlines’s success is, in large part, attributable to the company’s culture which provides a safe space for change to happen. 

Southwest Airlines’ purpose and vision includes their employees, they say “Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.” This is a reflection of high LQ culture. 

Customer Empowerment

A key characteristic in the digital economy is customer satisfaction. Responding to changing market demands quickly and competitively is crucial to thriving in an industry experiencing disruption due to technological innovation. Leaders who are on the lookout for disruption within their industries can ensure that their strategies are in line with the direction in which the industry is flowing.

According to Deloitte “Organizations that plan to survive and thrive in the future understand that digital must be a significant part of the plan. Embracing digital means cultivating a digital mindset, changing how people view work and the business as a whole.”

Digital disruption, by definition means transforming organizations to develop new products, services and solutions to meet the needs of future customers. Companies with a high LQ culture are not only open to change, they also listen with empathy to their customers and acknowledge the customer’s pain points, concerns and frustrations, all of which are a function of love. 

A focus on meeting the needs of future customers is an action of LQ leadership or an LQ culture. Li uses the case of T-Mobile to demonstrate this point. The company’s leadership had realized that future customers wanted a more authentic and transparent relationship with their carrier. When we love ourselves deeply and fully we feel safe enough to show up as we really are. Authenticity and transparency are just some of the benefits of raising one’s love quotient. We have long believed that businesses who move in the direction of love will create a greater likelihood of becoming more profitable and successful. 

High LQ leaders adopt a mindset which is customer-centric, open to feedback, and heavily reliant on data. High LQ executives are open to understanding technological trends and the impact they will have on their market’s. They are not afraid to reflect on what disruption means in their industry and therefore define sound strategies which enable them to compete and thrive in this fast-changing landscape. They understand that customer empowerment is a crucial part of a disruption mindset and ensure that the entire organization is focussed on developing products and solutions which appeal to next generation customers.

Challenging the Status Quo

In order to successfully develop a disruptive transformation strategy, leaders need to drive change which often requires a reset of the status quo. This can be an uphill battle for the change drivers who will need to seek out support and buy-in from shareholders, owners, colleagues and employees.

“Being a disruptive leader means having confidence in your ability to challenge the status quo and change a situation for the better.” says Li. 

Disruptive leaders must be able to inspire change, confidence and trust while challenging the status quo. In the face of change and uncertainty disruptive leaders themselves experience anxiety, fear and stress. At the same time they are required to have the resolve, conviction and courage to see their plans through. 

Having a high love quotient can help leaders to access the resolve and conviction needed to follow-through on their strategies. The more deeply we have loved ourselves, the more secure we feel in who we are, which then gives us greater courage to challenge the status quo.

Transparency

Li encourages leaders to be transparent about the change that is to come, she says “Transparency builds trust because it leads to accountability on all sides. For example, if you unveil your transformation strategy and its potential impact, both positive and negative, you enter into a conversation and relationship with the other party. Being open about the hopes, fears, and realities that everyone will face during the transformation helps to dispel any hidden motivations.”

Honesty and transparency are the traits of a high LQ leader who does not fear being challenged. The more a leader has loved himself/herself the less fear there will be around being challenged. This leader sets the tone and creates a high LQ culture which supports the relationships, values and environment which will be needed when change arises.

On the subject of transparency Li also says “In the course of my research, I found that organizations were able to get through disruptive transformation and maintain trust with their employees, customers, partners, and investors thanks to transparency and dialogue.” 

The ability to have transparency and dialogue is a reflection of LQ culture and high LQ leadership. The deeper that we have loved ourselves, the deeper our own individual LQ’s and the greater our capacity to manage change and the emotions which come up with change. A leader’s LQ will determine his capacity to listen to and empathize with the concerns that team members may raise around the changes that are taking place. 

One of the most common reasons that people don’t buy in to change is that they feel uncertain or unsure. The higher our LQ, the greater certainty and safety we will feel in our bodies. Even though there may be uncertainty in the environment we are able to trust in our leadership if we feel that they are coming from a place of love. In this way, the love which is present with an LQ culture bridges the gap between uncertainty and trust. 

Another reason that people don’t buy in to a disruptive transformation strategy is that not everyone is able to see the vision. When we have loved ourselves deeply and when we have individual trust and safety within our own body’s we are able to trust in the vision of our leadership, even in the face of uncertainty, lack of clarity or confusion.

Looking at the Data

Li talks about the importance of building a case with rigorous research. She says “Plan on spending a lot of time and resources to conduct rigorous research and help build the case for your disruption strategy”. A lot of times executives either don’t take the time to look at the data or ignore the reality of what the data tells them. People and cultures that lack LQ will tend to shy away from the data because of what it can bring up that they are not willing to look at. In an LQ culture where high LQ leadership is present individuals are not afraid of getting into the data because of what it may cause them to feel internally. 

Growing Pains

Li quotes N.R. Narayana Murthy, co founder of Infosys who says “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong”. Having high LQ cultures with high LQ leadership helps more effectively lead companies through massive disruptive transformation and disruptive strategies. Even though the pain of change may still be present, love enables one to move through it more effectively. The emotions of pain, uncertainty and insecurity won’t linger because of the way that they are managed and handled.

On the subject of growth Li also says “Growth is always hard. Breakthrough growth is even harder. It is disruptive precisely because it shifts the balance of power in established relationships-between customers and companies, between players in an industry, between people and departments within an organization. Growth challenges our attachment to proven revenue streams and customers while nurturing our ambitions to discover new ones.”

When we develop our love quotient, we create a deep sense of self-love and internal security which makes us more willing to open ourselves up to the limitless possibilities which could arise from growth. Developing our LQ allows us to become less attached to the way things are. It also helps us to let go of any attachment which exists around our own identities and what we perceive to be our value to the organization. When we have very deeply loved ourselves we become the source of our own love and we become less attached to the sense of security offered by external things such as one’s place within the organization, our perceived value within a certain role or proven revenue streams and customers. When our sense of security originates from within it empowers the individual to more effectively navigate external changes, they may face in the organization during periods of massive growth and disruption. 

Love Empowers a Healthy Relationship with Control

Love can empower us to make better decisions. In low LQ environments unproductive and exhausting levels of control tend to be exerted over the organization and one’s emotions in order to continue to move forward. This is ineffective leadership and can lead to a variety of different systemic problems and challenges. When we as leaders make decisions, without having dealt with the emotions that have come up around the situation, it means that we are suppressing our emotions and making decisions with emotional baggage clouding our judgement or weighing us down. We are not operating from the most conscious or fully present space. 

We may be overwhelmed, in survival mode or acting on auto-pilot and this means that we’ve cut ourselves off from critical reasoning and/or intuitive processes. Love can make a tremendous difference in these types of situations. Because when we are able to have full access to our emotions, we are no longer are afraid of feeling them and thus there is less of a tendency to suppress, avoid or deny our emotions. We can be fully present and feel through fear, feel through being challenged, feel through whatever it is that is there to be felt so that we can make the most conscious decision in the moment as opposed to stuffing our emotions down in order to continue to move forward.

Love also enables us to be okay with not being in control or being in confusion or chaos. Generally speaking, in business you want to have a sense of being in control, but there are times where that control is temporarily in flux, lost or unavailable. If you have a high LQ, you can still be okay and navigate the situation with groundedness. You can continue to take steps to move forward. You can still make the most conscious decisions even if you are missing clarity, or if there is confusion or chaos at hand. 

Trust 

Trust is something which is rooted in love and empowered by LQ. Li talks about three beliefs, openness, agency and action as the three beliefs that transform organizations. She says “organizations that give their employees a strong sense of agency over decisions make this understanding explicit: if you get to make a decision, you will also be accountable for it.” The concept of instilling agency in an organization is a function of trust and this empowers ownership in people inside of a company. “People who have been given agency feel a responsibility to think about the good of the overall organization and make decisions based on it’s long-term interests” says Li. 

LQ Empowers our Ability to Take Action

There are very few industries that are untouched by digital disruption. Often it is more risky to do nothing than it is to take action when you’re seventy or eighty percent certain of an outcome.

According to a Forbes Insights/Treasure Data survey “51% of executives surveyed report a high level of risk to their organization (in terms of market share and revenue) over the next five years from technology-driven disruption by startups or innovations by incumbent companies” and “more than one-third of executives say they are being directly affected by competition from digital and data-savvy players in their markets.” 

“People in organizations who believe in action don’t feel the need to do something right; they feel the need to do something. This does not mean that they are not afraid of failure, but they are able to look at the data, calculate and accept the risk and move forward into action. They know that the cost of not acting is far greater than the cost of making a mistake” says Li. 

Perfectionism is rooted in fear while love empowers us to “test and fail our way to success”. 

High LQ leadership is Flow

Li describes flow as “that moment when you are so absorbed and focused on your task that you slip into effortless and optimal performance.” In high LQ cultures flow becomes a way of being because when we love ourselves deeply we create greater safety within our own bodies.   Because we have embedded love into our bodies and our consciousness and because of the level of safety that we feel, we don’t have to search for flow, flow just is.

Final Thoughts

Digital innovation fundamentally changes customer desires and expectations. Technology has changed not just what we do but the way we do things. E-readers, tablets and smartphones for example, have changed the way we consume all types of content from news to entertainment with traditional media outlets struggling to stay afloat. Innovators, seeing the opportunities that new technology presents have been instrumental in reshaping entire industries. 

People are led through change with a disruption strategy and while change is scary for employees and leaders, what helps us go through change more effectively and successfully are organizations with high LQ leadership and cultures. This applies both to those who are charged with leading the change and those that are being led or going through the change. The higher the LQs are of the individuals in the organization, the easier it will be for them to navigate and go through change.

In this article we explored love in the context of disruptive innovation and discussed what it takes to develop and deploy a successful business model in an era of increasing complexity. We looked specifically at how LQ can empower a disruption strategy and showed how high LQ leadership and the cultivation of LQ cultures within organizations can make for a smooth and successful transformation. 

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