Disruption is coming. A conversation with a CEO for my podcast was thought provoking and interesting on the topic of “disruption”.

Leadership and Disruption Speaker -Thom Singer

He mentioned that “Disruption will happen in your industry… whether you like it or not”. Boom. So true. Change is the only consistent. We all know this, but when I speak to companies across industry lines people think it will not happen in their company.

Together this CEO and I discussed that if disruption is coming (and it is), how can people prepare for the change, or even better – how can they lead the disruption.  No matter your industry, disruption is coming. Real leadership is about helping guide your team through the changes.

What does “disrupt” really mean? It is not about cheaper or faster. Disruption is about changes that are new and impact how people behave.  Uber disrupted taxi’s.  Google Ads disrupted print advertising.  Things show up and the incumbents tend to ignore. Blockbuster shook their head at Netflix thinking they were weird.  It is the business model, not the product that causes disruption.

My own industry (speaking and training for the meetings industry) is seeing many changes, but as I am charting what is happening in live events (and specifically with speakers), it is not the obvious shifts that matter.  Many people seem to fixate on some minor visible things, and think the sky is falling. But the sky is not coming down. Yet as meeting planners have gotten more sophisticated, and the number of speakers has exploded (I think there are 10x the number of “speakers” compared to then years ago) the choices for who can deliver the message has been disrupted. But this disruption is really a blessing for experienced speakers who can deliver lasting value.

In the short term there seems to be a lot of people landing major speaking gigs that are not really landing with the planners or the participants. Just because someone is smart, or has done something cool, it does not mean they belong on stage.

Disruption is not superficial or small. Instead it has a lasting impact on the activities and processes of the whole industry. I have been committed to the long run with my business, and I am finding the right clients for me are more fun to work with than ever. I work with meeting planners who embrace disruption and are not afraid to try new things in the way they present their conference year over year.

To lead through disruption, a person has to look at these 5 things:

1. Are you committed to doing things differently?
2. There is no blame or finger pointing (or longing for the past).
3. They must step up and take charge.
4. “Try New Things” has to be part of their mantra.
5. If there is fear (of failure or the unknown), you must work through it and take action anyway.

Is your industry facing disruption and change? How are you trying to figure out ways to “lead”?


Thom Singer is a motivational speaker and corporate master of ceremonies / EmCee.  He is the host of two podcasts and the author of 12 books.