The world of business and music are not that far removed; success in either discipline demands an understanding of evolving patterns, relationships and dynamics, plus an understanding of how disparate pieces come together to create a grand, cohesive whole. As someone with deep expertise in these diverse disciplines, Whitney Johnson is uniquely placed to help business leaders understand how to find new paths of growth as old ones grow staid.
A classically trained pianist turned equity analyst turned business thinker, Whitney Johnson walks the talk when it comes to personal disruption. Recognized as one of the 50 leading business thinkers in the world, she has codified this knowledge framework in her latest book, ‘Build an “A” Team’. Talking to members of the Economic Times India Leadership Council, she laid out a persuasive case for choosing change before it chooses to upend you.
Here are five of Whitney’s winning strategies for thriving in the face of disruptive change.
Take the right risks
“Don’t be a bassist in a room full of guitar players. When you’re willing to play where no one else is playing, you are in a great position to disrupt instead of being disrupted,” opined Whitney. Embracing untapped opportunities can often be the difference between being the disruptor or the disrupted, so don’t be afraid to take on some risk on the road to reward.
“If you are trying to be an agent of disruption,” Whitney explained, “first becomes its subject. If you feel scared, if you feel lonely, you’re on the right path to disruption — you’re on the right path to making a significant change.” Each individual leader has their unique strengths, so play to it rather than try to be someone else. After all, only you can do you.
Constraints are an inevitable part of business and life, but some of history’s greatest innovations have been born of it. In Whitney’s words, “Whether we create or impose constraints, have a plan for how to make constraints work for you. Doing so can help you move at breakneck speed up your personal learning curve, opening up new, unexplored possibilities.”
Entitlement can often be endemic to leadership, stifling personal development and opening one up to catastrophic disruption. “It’s important to battle entitlement, the belief that I exist, therefore I deserve. If we battle our own senses of entitlement, we’ll accept change more quickly within ourselves, and, if you want to be the agent of change, you’ve got to be the subject.
Be discovery driven
Humankind has an innate desire to breach new frontiers, to go where no one else has before. As Whitney elaborates, “You won’t know what you and your team are capable of unless you set out to discover your potential. We can’t expect opportunities to come to us; we have to go to them. Remember: the power, potential, and thrill-of-the-ride are found in the wave as it swells and crests, not in the shallows lapping on the shore.”
Disruptive change can at times be unwelcome, but just as life is unpredictable, so too personal disruption is inevitable. By truly embracing disruption, you can leverage it as your personal sledgehammer to break down barriers to personal and organizational growth. And as you go further down the path of self-discovery and renewal, you’ll discover that personal disruption is not enervating, but energizing. All it takes is the courage to take the first steps to discovering a new you as you disrupt yourself.