The Disruptor


I am a disruptor. I creatively examine an existing idea or product and turn it into something better. Automatically change, improvement, and new ways of doing things come to my mind quickly. Usually I can see outcomes before others and work to make pre-emptive shifts to create the best possible scenarios. It might seem like an awesome talent to have, but the reality of it is that if I am not working with the right team, it can be painful. Others may not understand the motivation of a disruptor and may also question a disruptor’s right to propose radical change in industries with long held standards and positions.

Most people do not react positively to change. It is proven that most people resist change in favor of a construct they know and may be personally invested in. This does not make a disruptor’s job easy. Perhaps disruptors could be looked at as prophets. They call out and change the status quo because they see the future and a pathway to it. This causes resentment amongst the establishment. Even the most positive disruption will bring tension.

A personal revelation came with the reception of my Gallup BP10 (Builder Profile 10) results. As a high level disruptor, I have first and foremost, disrupted my own career. Although I have never been fired and consistently been asked to stay at every job I have ever worked at, my career path has been extremely bumpy. Being a disruptor means I have brought professional pain to my own career. Typically, I have learned new bodies of knowledge, created systems and communications, brought insights and leadership, then left. I leap-frogged past the scope of my positions and there are not career pathways for this in typical companies. This professional pattern looks less than ideal when showcased on a resume. Often, I left a position before reaping the career benefits of what I had sewn. The challenges I was given lacked significant opportunities to bring positive change, or the challenges I quickly rose to lacked compensation for the level of impact I brought. Like Johnny Appleseed who was likely a disruptor, the fruit of our labor is often enjoyed by others.

Disruptors need to create change, not sustain it day in and day out.  They need to stick around long enough to create, test, then launch, and address unforeseen issues that come up in a launch. After a venture or system is in orbit, it is time for a disruptor to leave or be re-assigned to a new project.

If you are a disruptor, or are working with one, my advice is to call a spade a spade. Start by acknowledging that you have a change agent in your midst. Understand that change usually is messy. Communicate that a disruptor using their talents well will likely produce amazing returns from positive changes.  Also, begin with the end in mind knowing it may look different than planned. New project goals, timelines, and outcomes need to be specifically defined so a disruptor can do his or her best work. Boundaries are helpful for disruptors as a starting place. They will then understand which ones need to be kept, and which ones should be broken.

In the fast-paced marketplace with technology growing at break-neck speeds, disruptors are a competitive necessity. The ability to adapt to and take advantage of a changing marketplace is what disruptors do best. Place a disruptor at the center of a diverse team, reward them well for great outcomes, and then re-assign them to get the best benefit from them. 

Shira Sagal