This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Buddha and the Badass" by Vishen Lakhiani. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What is a disruptive leader? How can you build a revolutionary workplace?
Contrary to how it sounds, disruptive leadership is actually a good thing in modern work environments. In The Buddha and the Badass, Vishen Lakhiani describes this type of leadership as one that allows people to grow, feel important and valued, develop friendships, and contribute to meaningful work.
Continue reading to learn how to become a disruptive leader that everyone will admire.
Set Your Company’s Values and Use Them to Attract the Right Team
The first step of being a disruptive leader is to define the company’s values, which are based on your personal values. You must do this because when your company has clearly defined values, applicants who have the same values and the ability to bring them to life will want to work for you. And when your company is composed of people with shared values, it’s far more likely to succeed.
(Shortform note: Some disagree with Lakhiani’s belief in the power of value statements. While corporate value statements may paint a pleasant picture of the company, often, the pressure to maximize profit wins out over adherence to nice-sounding values like “teamwork” and “empowerment.” And it looks like employees are actually leaving companies for this reason, not wanting to be part of a corporate system that exists only to maximize shareholder value. So even if a company truly means to act on its values, employees may be so disillusioned that they don’t take that promise seriously and don’t apply.)
Define and share your values in two ways:
Manifesto: Create a manifesto outlining what your company stands for and what values it has. Be aware that some people will dislike your manifesto, and that’s OK. The main point is that your manifesto takes a strong stance so that it attracts the people who do share your values.
Your Reason for Existing: In addition to a manifesto, communicate why you exist. You must communicate this because your “why” is what candidates connect to emotionally, and emotions drive human decisions far more than logic does.
(Shortform note: With these two value declarations, Lakhiani is in a way trying to help you speak both to the minds and hearts of job applicants. A manifesto is akin to a thesis statement about your business, and it aims to logically persuade someone that what you’re doing is valuable. It thus makes sense that not every manifesto will appeal to the logic of every person. A reason for existing, on the other hand, is a deeper expression of core values that are meant to resonate emotionally—comparable to a story.)
Define Bold, Forward-Thinking Goals
To lead a disruptive company, you must develop big, bold goals for it, insists Lakhiani. Unfortunately, most people and leaders are conditioned to aspire to modest goals. But to accomplish something great, you must set audacious goals and constantly update them to be even more audacious. If you don’t, your company will languish in mediocrity.
Ironically, the bolder your goals are, Lakhiani argues, the easier they are to achieve. This is because when your goals are inspiring and audacious, people with the right skills and enthusiasm will be excited by your cause and want to join it. To have such big, bold goals, Lakhiani warns that you must not be too rational. Otherwise, you’ll start hedging and reducing the scope of your goal to something more manageable.
Lakhiani provides two tips on attaining goals:
Tip 1: Always speak of your project 10 years down the road to indicate the goal you believe it will achieve in 10 years. Express this goal as if it were already a reality—doing this makes it more likely to happen.
Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to fail at achieving your goal. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t think expansively enough to create a bold vision. Lahkiani specifically recommends that 50% of your goals should have a 50% chance of failing. Within your company, you should also strive to set goals that succeed only 60 to 80% of the time. If you have a success rate higher than that, it means your goals aren’t big enough.
Foster In-Sync Thinking
Once you’ve hired people who believe in your goals and values, disruptive leaders should then foster an environment where they can easily experience what Lakhiani calls brain coupling: being totally mentally in sync on an idea or project. This improves the efficiency of your organization because people can make decisions faster, and it makes employees happier because they feel connected to and understood by co-workers.
As a leader, you can foster in-sync thinking by getting rid of hierarchical communication structures within the company. Let every employee approach any superior, no matter how senior they are. This allows ideas to travel freely between everyone.
Lakhianai also recommends encouraging in-sync thinking using the OODA model of decision-making, created by John Boyd, an airforce military strategist. This decision-making model emphasizes speed over accuracy and encourages team members to quickly make decisions without over-analyzing or fully weighing the pros and cons. Though this might allow for more bad decisions, the team will make more net good decisions (in its original use, OODA led air force pilots to fire more bullets overall. This meant a higher percentage of misses, but an even higher percentage of hits than when not using OODA).
In OODA, you don’t wait for perfect information, but quickly forge ahead with the information you do have to make a decision. Once you’ve made a decision, you restart the OODA process to determine if it led to a desirable outcome and change your approach if necessary. When an organization uses OODA, it gets more done faster, which allows the team to move forward in-sync as a whole.
OODA stands for:
- Observe (Identify a problem or opportunity. For example, if you own a fitness center, you might observe that your older clients don’t sign up for classes.)
- Orient (Consider what you know and how you might solve the problem. You might determine that hiring older fitness instructors could encourage older clients to attend classes.)
- Decide (Collectively agree on a solution. You’d bring this proposal to your team and quickly get their input and assent.)
- Act (Carry out the solution. You’d hire the older fitness instructors. Then, you’d start OODA over again: Observe if this approach worked and re-orient if necessary. For example, if this doesn’t bring in older clients, you’d scrap the idea. Or if older clients only sign up for yoga classes, you’d hire older fitness instructors to teach only yoga classes.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Buddha and the Badass summary:
- Why you don't need to work long, grueling hours to be successful
- How to transform your workplace from mundane to fun
- How to merge spiritual enlightenment with disruption