Women Leaders Insights: Leading Through Disruptive Change

“True leaders are visionaries who decide in advance to overlook uncertainty and irresistibly compel others to take the hill.”

– Brandi Sikes, President, Limestone Commercial Real Estate

It’s undeniable that today’s business environment has recurring challenges.  Consequently, leaders are constantly managing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity; otherwise, VUCA environments.[i]  While processes and systems are critical, people leadership remains essential to effectively leading through disruptive change. 

A Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “Research: Women are Better Leaders During a Crisis,” shared findings from an analysis of women and men leadership effectiveness. The results indicated that women leaders were seen as having significantly more effectiveness in several competencies, including: 

  • Taking initiative 
  • Inspiring and motivating others 
  • Collaborating and teamwork 
  • Making decisions 
  • Driving for results 
  • Establishing stretch goals  

Apart from the HBR findings, four women leaders share their approach to leading during challenging times.

Four Leadership Insights 

Remain on Mission. 

Before disruption occurs, be clear about the organization or business group’s mission – its purpose and goals.  Also, have clarity about guiding principles that influence decisions and actions. Dr. Felicia Scott, Independent Sales Director with Mary Kay, stresses the need to have a solid vision and mission. With this foundation, it’s possible to eliminate and minimize distractions to the goals and purpose. 

The mission and organizational values establish guardrails for decision-making. These help to minimize drift in the short-term that could have far-reaching impacts. “You need to know who you are as a company and, especially in difficult times, stay the course,” says President and Owner of Caliber Solutions Kellye Badon. Staying the course includes remaining true to the level of service you provide and the worth you place on that service, even if it means a temporary lost in project engagements. 

Don’t Go It Alone. 

Effective leaders work with and through others. They don’t try to do everything themselves. Instead, these leaders engage team members and partners as stakeholders in identifying problems; brainstorming and exploring potential solutions; defining and implementing action plans; and monitoring and adjusting to ensure the business achieves its goals.  Brandi Sikes, President of Limestone Commercial Real Estate, says it best, “They [leaders] see the gifts in others and make room for them. They exude peace and create an environment for creative problem solving.” 

Take Decisive Action. 

Leaders make decisions and take intentional action. They don’t avoid making tough decisions – go silent – or get paralyzed with information overload. Instead, leaders act decisively and create the environment for their teams to do the same. “The ability to make decisions in the face of ambiguity is a powerful skill. If you wait to have all the answers, the opportunity may pass. Taking bold steps in the dark requires courage. Courage contagiously inspires the world,” said Sikes. 

Action doesn’t happen without thought, even if it means engaging an accelerated process that begins with identifying the problem or opportunity and determining alternative solutions. Then, the next steps include gathering information, evaluating the alternatives, and choosing and implementing the best course of action.  

Decisive action brings direction, focus, and a sense of confidence to an otherwise disruptive situation.

Practice Self-Care. 

When on a flight, you’ll hear the pre-flight instructions, “if there should be a change in cabin pressure…put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” That’s referring to the actions to take during an emergency situation.  Similar to a flight emergency, disruptive change requires proactive action.

It’s important for leaders to practice self-care so they can have the endurance to create meaningful impact.  Robbyn L. Traylor, MD/Chief Medical Officer of Acute Care Services at Next Level Urgent Care, offers this insight:

“Establishing routines for work and rest are extremely important for success. Meditation can reduce pain and improve overall well-being. Physical exercise calms the mind and lowers blood pressure. Sleep reduces stress hormones which sometimes cause damage to our organ systems. Overworked and burned-out leaders may achieve success, but the consequence on physical, mental and emotional health can negatively impact their ability to function in the same role over long periods of time.”

Dr. Traylor says that meditation has been shown to increase productivity by as much as 120%.

When leaders take care of themselves first, the positive impacts are apparent in interpersonal interactions, communications, and personal viability over time. 

A Call to Action

Which of these insights present the greatest opportunity for your personal attention? What will you do differently beginning today?  

Contact us for a Discovery consultation.


[i] VUCA concept originated in 1987 from Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus’ leadership theories. 

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and women’s leadership strategist. Her leadership program, THE END VIEW FLAME SYSTEM, guides women in bringing together their talents, strengths, and executive presence to experience a thriving career.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.