An Interview with a Rebellious Leader: Bill Jensen

What is a rebellious leader and is organizational change for enterprise only possible with one at the helm?

It was my pleasure to interview Bill Jensen for our Rebellious Leaders series and get his take on the topic.

Bill is an internationally-acclaimed thought leader who is known for extremely useful content, and his passion for making it easier for everyone to work smarter, not harder. His first book, Simplicity, was the Number 5 Leadership/ Management book on Amazon in 2000. His most recent book –  Future Strong maps your future and the future of work.

A Different Perspective

We talk about leadership and organizational change a lot here on Switch & Shift, and we are blessed to include many brilliant thought leaders among our regular guests.

It is our mission to look at things differently, even rebelliously, because we believe that is what is necessary for businesses to thrive in the 21st century. We sometimes hear different perspectives on issues, which is what Bill brings to the table.

Last month on our inaugural Pockets of Excellence episode, the brilliant Liz Wiseman and Ben Putterman spoke about how real organizational change, at least within enterprise,  often originates from the middle, and is moves at an incremental pace.

Bill has some varying ideas that we think are important and valuable.

Is Bold, Revolutionary Leadership the Key to Organizational Change?

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Freya Williams about her new book Green Giants, where she talks about large companies that made the move towards sustainability, and reveals

“… the six factors responsible for their success, including: iconoclastic leadership fueled by deep conviction and a rebellious streak; disruptive innovation that uses sustain ability to spur the development of radically better products and services; a higher purpose that ignites the company – when the mission leads, profits follow.”

Bill Jensen believes that in order for companies and industries to transform, we need more bold, revolutionary leaders getting out in front and loudly leading their organizations. People like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk embody this disruptive, confident style, and because of that they very much became the face of the brands they were leading.

But he believes we need more than that – we need more “disruptive heroes”  throughout every organization, in every level of the organization to really change a company. There simply aren’t enough in most organizations.

Technology will Lead Disruption and May Doom HR

The second important part of the discussion I had with Bill was about the future of HR. Slow moving and overly conservative, many HR professionals are being left behind as companies and communication change rapidly.

Instead, Bill sees Technology taking over and spelling the end for outdated Human Resources practices. Through Talent Analytics and Workplace Analysis, technology allows us to determine what motivates employees and what the personality traits and behaviors are of our most successful employees. We are eliminating the need for ‘gut feelings’ (that are often wrong), thereby cutting down on bad hires.

Technology also helps us predict an organization’s human capital needs down the road. As futuristic as it may seem, technology will help us measure the most minute details, including how our workspaces should be designed for maximum employee engagement and performance.

So, is HR doomed?  Bill Jensen thinks so, unless it heeds the wake-up call and starts dealing with the changing workforce and culture. In order to do so, HR leaders will need to become  disruptive heroes themselves.

Leading Boldly is a Choice

Bill Jensen is known widely as a change agent and “simplifier,” and his book Simplicity has a cult-like following. It isn’t difficult for me to connect the dots between the theory of simplicity, which is really about focusing on the important things, and bold leadership. If you are caught up in the minutia of life, you can’t see what’s important, and you can’t lead anyone, including yourself.

Bill’s new book, Future Strong: How to Work Unleashed, Lead Boldly, and Live Life Your Way, outlines the choices you must make relating to:

  • Inner truths
  • Soul on Fire
  • Humble Self
  • Sacrifice
  • Reliance

The people that Bill sees revolutionizing large organizations must make the choice to be bold and daring. They need to understand that the future is personal…that so much disruption is coming our way; each and every one of us needs to make deeply personal choices about how  we will embrace it all

Our business world is moving so fast that decisiveness and confidence are essential in leadership. There is not time to second guess yourself. Yet, large organizations are not always filled with bold leaders; many at the top are just trying to make it to retirement without destroying themselves or their companies. And not all outspoken leaders are welcome in the corporate world.

What do you think the answer to organizational change is?


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Amy is a Writer, Editor, and Content Strategist with a background in Sales and Sales Management. She created The Millennial Think Tank to debunk much of the hype around GenY and has deep insights into all 3 generations. She also writes on Sales, B2B, and Diversity Issues. Amy lives in Florida and PA with her modern day Brady Bunch family.

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