Leading through disruption

For some reason, “Leading through Disruption: A Changemaker’s Guide to Twenty-First Century Leadership” reminds me of “No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends. “No Ordinary Disruption” is the hard-nosed business version of “The Big Pivot” and “Drawdown”. The rallying cry to examine your business model in a world where all the basics you relied on are in question. “Leading through Disruption” is a gentler business version with the same message. The corporate playbook from the last century no longer applies.

119 elements

The book is written by Andrew Liveris, ex-CEO of Dow Chemicals. The company specialises in combining and recombining 118 elements to create something new, powerful, and miraculous. The 119th element is humanity. That is a true reflection of his philosophy.

Other CEO books

His book is a lot better than some of the other CEO books, which are a lot more generic. This book combines practicality with experience and vision. Here are a few other CEO books:

His advice. Embrace your reality; choose among your options; build the team to execute; lead the charge.


He is a Zeronaut. In his view, today’s leaders need to step up to provide societal, financial, and human benefits at a time when we all recognise this is the only planet we have, and we need to protect it.

We live in a shit show

And this is in an environment of VUCA, new abnormal, G-zero (no public leadership), globalisation eroding (global trading is fragmenting), short-termism, digitisation creating havoc, and unstable geopolitics. A shit show.

The model is broken

The current economic model is broken and can’t be fixed, and plan A—the idea that business should be motivated exclusively by profit—is a model that no longer works. Society is demanding that capitalism take an honest look in the mirror. Capitalism, and the business world in general, has for way too long been narrowly and selfishly focused on profits and the enrichment of a single entity. And as a warning. Many of the breakthroughs fueling 21st-century growth, from digitalisation and artificial intelligence to innovations in the life sciences, have emerged from that same capitalist ecosystem. Read the “The Four”.

The convergence of values and value

The trends indicate that corporations, asset managers, and asset owners alike have begun recognising the convergence of values and value. Suggesting we are moving to inclusive capitalism. Companies are under growing pressure to establish sustainable enterprise-wide visions and strategies that benefit the environment and society while maintaining ethical and transparent corporate governance. The prospect of ten billion people inhabiting the Earth by 2050 makes it clear that future metrics and accountability must be led by purpose-based enterprises.

Zero and circular

As a CEO, you need to understand that the new costs of doing business in this century include a company-wide path to zero emissions and safe, efficacious, and 100% recyclable products that don’t harm humanity or the environment along your entire value chain.

Humanity Inc

The global enterprise he calls Humanity Inc. needs to evolve aggressively for everybody’s survival, which is why adopting and embedding ESG metrics is minimal table stakes of a business’s license to operate in the twenty-first century. Companies need a new social license to operate. That starts with making values part of the DNA of a company. Doing well and doing should be in the DNA of what it means to be a leader.

New business model

He predicts a new business model. A model that takes into account total natural capital cost at restorative levels. Now you have to worry about the value of air, water, trees, soil, etc. The real cost. For example, the price of water is set artificially by municipal authorities who seldom, if ever, pause to consider where that water comes from. Whether it’s a mountain range, a river, or a dam, no thought is given to restoration. That means that no incentive exists to price the water that comes out of a hose or sink tap. That is going to change.

ESG as a corporate reality

The first indications of that happening are companies such as BlackRock and State Street’s focussing on ESG as part of their investor criteria. Making ESG a corporate reality. Following the examples of Patagonia, Dow, Unilever, Salesforce, etc. (it feels wrong to put Patagonia in the same sentence as some of these other companies).


Trust Barometer also showed that respondents wanted businesses to play a more prominent role in addressing climate change, economic inequality, racial injustice, and the retraining of workforces in this century.

Keep your job

The CEOs of any enterprise that lacks a net-zero 2050 climate change goal and who hasn’t convinced the board and shareholders to put their full weight behind that metric will not last long in their job. More forward-looking CEOs say 2030.

Stay competitive

To be competitive in the future, companies will have to

  • Lead the way forward by going beyond government compliance. Again, if you don’t step up, who will? Wouldn’t you rather do it before your government makes you?
  • Double and triple down on R&D and technology to reduce their overall environmental impact to zero. 
  • Begin hunting for acquisitions and mergers with enterprises that are already expert recyclers.


The next 1,000 unicorns—companies with a market valuation over a billion dollars—won’t be a search engine or media company. They will be businesses developing green hydrogen, green agriculture, green steel, and green cement.

Sustainability as the norm

Sustainability will always be a noun. But in the future, ideally, its adjectival form, sustainable, will become commonly used. We will see sustainable business. Sustainable technology. Sustainable strategy. Sustainable communities. Sustainable urbanisation. Sustainable wind farms. Sustainable oil and gas companies. Over time, sustainability will become so embedded in corporate thinking and strategy that the word will vanish.


If you want to start with ESG, you need 

  • Benchmark—immediately—what every one of your stakeholders is saying about ESG.
  • Begin the ESG conversation at the board level.
  • Consider emergent ESG regulations as your company’s baseline minimum.
  • Study your supply chains, both the input and the output.
  • Restore trust.
  • Become more inclusive
  • From business as usual to transparency as usual
  • Focus on two lenses, the first local and the second global.
  • Go simultaneously wide and deep.

The questions

What policy changes are coming out of Washington? What are the Europeans thinking? What is the latest technology coming out of Korea? Who are our partners? Where will we keep our technology? How do shifting regional alliances and trading blocs affect our workforce as it relates to immigration? With whom should we ally economically, politically, militarily, and even within our own country and communities? In a world increasingly defined by new, shifting, and sometimes contradictory alliances, who are your friends and allies? Whom do you trust economically, politically, and militarily? Finally, what happens if your business is at odds with the value system of your own government? Against a backdrop of political and cultural division, should we, as CEOs, remain agnostic or take a stand? Should a strategy exist today for Western alliance companies to withdraw from China?


Business leaders will have to take the lead. But preferably in partnership with the government, education, scientists and community. If the last century was about lobbying, advocacy, and communications, this century is about strategic insight and getting started early in understanding the triune of business, government, and society. Business and government need to put aside their old antagonisms and form a new partnership model. Read “The Third Wave”.


He talks about the importance of the role of government in R+D (with, for example, what putting a man on the moon created as company spin-offs), but also to regulate technology. In that context, read “The exponential age (governments are too slow). It is the government’s role to enable businesses to realise profits and be responsible citizens, consider every possible constituency and ensure no one is left disadvantaged or unprotected.

Other things you need to do

Leaders of the future need to set up a diverse activist board with a long-term perspective, seek investors and funders with the same long-term view, change the success metrics and focus on developing a soft balance sheet (capturing innovation capability, culture, branding, customer retention, NPS, etc.), and create a company culture that has strength, depth, and integrity.

Leadership lessons

He shares a few leadership lessons:

  • A company and its leaders must create a culture that allows the business to evolve away from its founder or founding family and toward the leader who is creating the culture of tomorrow.
  • The transformation of an enterprise “begins with a sense of crisis or urgency,” No crisis on hand? Then, step up and envision the conditions of a crisis by imagining the content of what you are doing and the context of your operating environment.
  • Insist that everyone always be future-focused or future-trained. Imagine X or Y scenario. See https://www.ronimmink.com/perception-pioneer/
  • Part of the entrepreneur’s job description means that your company exists within institutions, governments, academia, and advisory boards that will turn what you are selling into a product that does well by doing good.
  • Disrupt yourself whenever possible.
  • Combine agility with resiliency and continually test internal and external risk envelopes.
  • Review your strategy every six months.
  • The old toolboxes no longer apply.
  • Be bold and courageous. Embrace the moment you are in and change it.
  • Assess. Decide. Do. Do all three quickly. Be patient—but be urgently patient.
  • Companies should understand that future competitiveness begins today.
  • Do not stare in the rearview mirror. Do not glance at the side mirrors. Focus intensely through the front windshield—because that is where the future is—that is where the better days are—and that is where the better ways are found.
  • Leave a legacy (read “Legacy”).
  • The future leadership of this century is about leaders from the private and the public sector partnering to solve the biggest problems humanity faces.
  • Intellectual (and emotional) curiosity is or should be a lifelong habit and journey.
  • Have humility and a genuine identification with their roots and histories and those of their colleagues.
  • Embrace reality, make conscious choices, and lead by building collaborative teams and embracing fellowship.
  • Live by inspiration, aspiration, and perspiration.
  • Live your life on the numerator, not the denominator.
  • Lead with context, using the expanded bandwidth that technology has placed at everyone’s disposal. Do not squander the unprecedented ability you have in this century to lead with context and content. It is a privilege.

This century requires leaders who are comfortable with (if not exactly overjoyed by) Bitcoin abruptly showing up to jolt the financial markets when, two years earlier, no one even knew what Bitcoin was.

We all need to be leaders

In climate change, we all need to be leaders. Leadership as a mindset. That means seven billion varieties of leadership experience. No matter who we are or what we do for a living, most of us lead something. Maybe we should all volunteer three years of public service (to increase the talent pool). Transforming and re-creating our current institutions may not be possible in a top-down way, which leaves us no alternative but to begin from the bottom up. Public citizen development. Creating a better and happier world. Happiness and science are not contradictory terms, that one is “soft” and the other “hard,”. The inventors, scientists, and engineers of our world are the people ultimately equipped to solve humanity’s most challenging problems, including the problem of happiness. 


He illustrates it with a chapter with a picture of the future with wireless charging, holograms, AI, carbon capture, advanced materials, self-healing polymers, space travel, abundance and, indeed, happiness. Terminal illnesses are in the past. By 2050, you will be able to pop a pill and live until 150, not in a decrepit, lingering condition but in a continuously healthy state. By 2050, we will be halfway there. Think about it: if you wed antiaging advances with human biology and artificial intelligence with biology, you will have dreamed up an entirely new human being. A future where happiness is taking its place as the foremost barometer of life. Leisure and fulfilment will take their natural places as essential reasons for and drivers of existence. 

Start transformation and digitisation now

This 2050 vision also makes clear that any corporation or enterprise that hasn’t incorporated digitalisation and modernity into its processes will be left in the dust. Assuming a company’s balance sheet is healthy, now would be an excellent time to speed up the implementation of your strategy. 

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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