March 26, 2018

The three pillars of leadership in the disruptive world

You’ve probably heard me saying countless times already that disruption can affect anyone at any time, but it’s true and there’s no slowing it down. As business leaders, not only do you need to keep yourselves disruption-ready, but you also have to lead your people into keeping up with disruption.

Leadership today can be defined in many different ways, some of which get lost in translation. The roles of a leader in one country or organisation can differ from those in another. But I believe that leaders are not just the people at the end of the decision-making process; they are the people in the organisation at all levels.

Leadership has always evolved and will keep doing so, and even more markedly in our fast-changing world. We cannot clearly define leadership in this era as everything from leadership roles to levels of hierarchy is constantly changing and evolving.

If we cannot define leadership in our disruptive world, how do we know what the benchmark of a great leader must be? Although the definition and concept of leadership are constantly evolving, here are the three pillars of leadership that can guide you in the disruptive and fast-changing world.

First, business leaders today must have a clear vision, a common knowledge. But many times, this common knowledge associated with establishing a clear vision for your organisation can become vague and lose its clarity.

The benefit of having a clear vision is having a clear direction. It acts like a compass for your business. Other benefits include motivation and purpose. With a clear vision, there is a predetermined direction that allows you to move your business with purpose.

Defining a clear vision is one thing. But clarifying this vision with the people in the organisation is equally important. Your people must understand the vision to understand not only the business better but their roles in the organisation as they are the driving force that turns the vision into reality.

Second, business leaders today more than ever need adaptability, as change is constant and disruption is unpredictable. There are many benefits to practising adaptability. From being able to get back up from adversity to being able to handle any sudden transitions in your business, adaptability is something that the leaders of today and the future will need. Additionally, adaptability will also benefit the people in your organisation.

Businesses do not fail because their environment changes; they fail because of their leaders’ failure to adapt. The world is changing fast, business leaders know that for a fact, so they must be better equipped to face the more competitive landscape.

There are, however, some misconceptions about adaptability. Some people believe that in order to adapt, one must completely change oneself — but that is simply not true. Rather, change what is needed, not every aspect or the core of what you or your business are all about.

Lastly, business leaders today must also be engaging. In our fast-changing world, it is important to stay engaged with the business and with your people. Everything starts from leaders and engagement is no exception.

The traits of engaging leaders are a proactive approach to finding solutions, and growing and developing their people. Engaging leaders also inspire their people, guiding them in the right direction and empowering them to find meaning in their work.

Engagement within your organisation can often be difficult and time-consuming. However, if your people are not engaged, work productivity will definitely fall. It takes effort to engage your people but it is definitely worth it in the long run.

Even though we cannot exactly pinpoint what the true definition of leadership is in our world today, it does not mean it lacks importance in our business. The world is changing fast and the meaning of leadership today may not be the same in a few years, as it will constantly evolve.

Your role as a leader is very important as you transform a group of talents into a working, organised and successful team. Eventually, those efforts will be the pillars that will keep you strongly rooted in a shared determination to keep up with the fast-changing and disruptive world.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at or

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