‘Quiet disruptor…’ Nothing prepared me for the heartfelt response from people to this simple phrase I put together in early June as my introduction to a new online community with Bernadette Jiwa.
Yes, it was the culmination of many hours trying to make sense of who I am and what I am about. Hoping there was a thread to be found that connected my complex and unusually diverse life. And also feeling a little silly that at my age I didn’t know.
What’s surprised me most, though, was the hope that putting these two words together has generated for others.
Not just quiet, but disruptor. Doing real change, about things that really matter to us, gently.
Being courageous about drawing a line and saying more of the same isn’t good enough, for us and those we work with.
Dampening down the reactive noise and stepping out of the crowded space in order to think, feel and hear better.
And having the confidence that we can make a lasting change when it’s grounded in a deeper, more connected view of the world.
Who are Quiet Disruptors?
Maybe the simple answer is those who know they are or want to be. Who are relieved and encouraged that there’s a way of being and creating powerful change, that is authentic to who they are.
The challenge has been to define Quiet Disruptors more clearly… But as I’ve worked on this and talked with others, I have realised that it is more of a quality than a definition.
So our draft manifesto is a rallying call to those who want to be part of this sea-change. Who know from experience that our dominant culture doesn’t automatically provide a good environment for them to flourish:
- For those who know what is important to them, and want to find their own voice and own way of being.
- Also, it’s for those who have worked to bring change differently, but who may be worn out and battle-scarred, and need reviving.
- And for those who are confident in being a Quiet Disruptor, who want to encourage and connect with others to see more emerging.
Perhaps, too, it’s for those enlightened others who want to learn how to encourage and nurture this different way of seeing a change in their organisation. Who are responding to the realisation that the skills and leadership that brought us here aren’t adequate for the road ahead.
Whilst we may be part of a very long line of thoughtful people who went against the grain, I sense that now is the time to gather together. Encouraging each other to offer an alternative way of looking, being and doing that bears long-term fruit. Developing our voice to create a generous and intentional shift.
I’ve also been amazed by how the ethos of Quiet Disruptors resonates with other emerging streams. Like deep calling to deep, there’s a groundswell of people finding counter-cultural ways of expressing themselves in their work and life. And the rumble is getting more persistent.
At a deep level, I’ve always been OK about being a bit different. Not quite fitting into the mainstream, appreciating my own headspace. Not that it has always been easy or without cost. But the alternative of somehow being someone I wasn’t was a worse option…
So I’ve walked through decades of not quite knowing who I am. I didn’t fit into a neat box professionally or socially.
Sometimes that was OK because I was forging a new path and could see where I was going. Other times it just felt like a weird wilderness
Therefore when I started writing this blog last year, I found myself returning to the question of finding our true voice. Fortunately, the things I was also reading and listening to gave me hope that this wasn’t a futile exercise. And my personal experience – of business challenges, family trauma and then breast cancer diagnosis – meant that I had no hiding place. I had to stay with the question, rather than get absorbed in daily activities.
Then suddenly I saw that the thread, present in various guises throughout my life, had a name!
I have always been a creative, forward thinker. Pushing the boundaries. Being curious about what happens when you unconventionally mix things together. Feeling passionately about the walls that keep injustice in place. Or the huge consequences of lack of forethought, especially amongst those who hold positions of leadership.
And I have made a difference, particularly in healthcare, where at times I held a duty of care for hundreds of thousands of people.
Sounds good, but it also came at a cost.
I offended those who were wedded to the status quo. To those who didn’t want their perspective or way they held their position, to be disturbed. Who were uncomfortable with bigger questions for which they had no answer.
There, when the usual tools of control didn’t work – because I wasn’t playing that game – I experienced a variety of means of being bullied or shut down.
And I was isolated.
Sure, I had plenty of learning to do – wisdom and insight are honed by mistakes and failure. But I knew that there was a better and more authentic way of leading that could produce better fruit.
And yes, it’s taken years in the wilderness to come to today with something to share.
I’d love to hear from you and learn your story. Or perhaps there are people you think I should contact. What would encourage and inspire Quiet Disruptors to find their own voice and be comfortable using it? If you have perspectives on this please let me know.
Having launched the Quiet Disruptors basic website – with more to come – I think it’s time to start writing and speaking.
Getting out there, and making a ruckus (as Seth Godin would say), thoughtfully.