Disruption: Reimagining the Ontology of Being a Leader

By 7.1 min readPublished On: May 30th, 2023


In today’s rapidly changing world, the ontological understanding of being a leader is being continuously challenged and reshaped. This transformative process has been initiated and sustained by several waves of disruptions brought by societal, economic, and technological shifts. To comprehend the dynamic nature of leadership in the present day, it is essential to trace back its evolution through various pivotal phases of human civilization – from the agrarian society, through the industrial revolution, the age of information, and finally into the meta-disruption era. The understanding of these disruptions aids in reimagining the ontology of leadership, especially in the face of ambiguity, uncertainty, accelerated speed of change, and technology surpassing human adaptability.

1. Pre-Industrial Revolution – Agrarian Society

The ontology of leadership in the agrarian society was primarily centered around physical strength, tribal cohesion, and the ability to provide for the community. Leaders were essentially those who could ensure the safety of their tribes, manage resources efficiently, and make decisions that would ensure the tribe’s survival and growth. Power was often hereditary, and social hierarchies were rigid, thus limiting the scope for disruption.

2. Industrial Revolution – Solving Complicated Problems

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the nature of leadership evolved in response to the emerging complex challenges. Leaders were expected to design, manage, and control assembly lines, supervise labor, and optimize productivity. Hierarchical, command-and-control leadership styles became prevalent, with the emergence of factory managers and industrial barons. The ability to solve complicated problems related to manufacturing, labor, and distribution defined leadership success. In such an environment, disruptions were seen as problems to be mitigated, not opportunities for innovation.

3. The Age of Information – Data Rules

In the age of information, leaders had to adapt and thrive in a completely different environment. No longer was leadership solely about managing physical resources or labor; it was about managing information. This era saw the rise of more egalitarian and knowledge-based leadership. Leaders were those who could effectively gather, interpret, and apply vast amounts of data to make strategic decisions. Disruption during this age took the form of radical innovations in digital technology, which altered how leaders accessed and utilized information.

4. Meta – Disruption and the Emerging Universe of Disruption

Currently, we find ourselves in the meta-disruption era, characterized by constant change and upheaval in virtually all aspects of life. Today’s disruptions are not just about new technologies but also shifts in societal values, political landscapes, and environmental conditions. The role of a leader in this era is no longer defined by their position in a hierarchy or their knowledge of information but their ability to navigate and drive change amid chaos and uncertainty. This requires leaders to be adaptable, resilient, innovative, and most importantly, to have the ability to inspire and manage people through constant disruptions.

Reimagining the Ontology of Being a Leader in Today’s World

Leadership, in the face of today’s disruptive forces, is less about rigid control and more about agility, collaborative problem-solving, and fostering an environment that encourages innovation. The leaders of today need to embody empathy, have a learning mindset, and demonstrate resilience. They must be digital literates, but at the same time, they need to understand that technology serves as a tool that augments human capabilities and not replace them. The uncertainty and ambiguity that accompany this era of rapid change call for leaders who can make sense of the chaos and guide their organizations toward a sustainable future.


The ontology of leadership has undergone a significant transformation over time, driven by societal, economic, and technological disruptions. From the relatively static leadership of the agrarian era, through the problem-solving industrial leaders, the data-driven leaders of the information age, to the adaptable, resilient, and innovative leaders of the meta-disruption era, leadership has constantly evolved to meet the needs and challenges of the times. In today’s world characterized by disruption, ambiguity, uncertainty, and rapid technological changes, the ontological essence of leadership is about embracing the change and leading amidst the chaos.

Next Steps

To thrive in this era of disruption, existing and aspiring leaders need to redefine their understanding and approach to leadership. This would involve continuous learning, adapting to changes, fostering inclusivity, and promoting a culture of innovation in their organizations. Moreover, it would require leaders to focus more on being human-centered, empathetic, and ethical in their leadership. Equipping themselves with the ability to leverage technology to its best potential will further enhance their leadership capabilities. The reimagined ontology of being a leader is not a destination but a journey of constant evolution and adaptation to the never-ending waves of disruption.


Further Expansion: Disruption: Reimagining the Ontology of Being a Leader

From Agrarian Society to Industrial Revolution: The Seeds of Change

In agrarian societies, leadership was about survival and physical resilience. With the transition to the Industrial Revolution, however, leadership roles transformed radically. The emerging industries required leaders who could oversee the manufacturing processes, understand the mechanics of machinery, and optimize human labor in factories. The hierarchical, autocratic leadership style emerged in this period as the industrial era leaders sought to maintain control over complex production processes and large workforces. But the seeds of disruption were already being sown. The revolutionary ideas of mass production and mechanization were the precursors to the rapid pace of change that would define the future of leadership.

Information Age: A New Paradigm for Leadership

The advent of the Information Age brought in a new leadership paradigm. Here, the key to successful leadership was the capacity to understand and utilize data. The hierarchical structure started losing its rigidness, making way for more distributed leadership styles. Knowledge became power, and leaders were those who could effectively harness the potential of this knowledge to drive growth and innovation.

Leadership in this era became more about strategic decision-making and less about operational supervision. The leaders’ roles shifted from being directive to being facilitative. They were no longer solely decision-makers; they became enablers, empowering their teams to make informed decisions. Disruption in this era took the form of rapid technological advancements, shifting the focus of leadership to agility, flexibility, and the ability to continually learn and adapt.

Meta-Disruption Era: Leadership Amidst Constant Change

Today, we are in the age of meta-disruption. Change is not an occasional disturbance but a constant reality. The speed, scope, and nature of changes have reached an unprecedented level, making the business landscape more volatile and complex.

In this new era, leadership demands a combination of skills that were once considered contradictory. Leaders need to provide a stable vision while promoting innovation, maintain control while fostering autonomy, and ensure consistent performance while allowing room for experimentation and learning from failures. The effective leaders of today and tomorrow are those who can balance these dichotomies while navigating the turbulent waters of disruption.

Reimagining Leadership in the Era of Disruption

In the face of disruptive forces, leaders must reimagine their roles. The transformational leaders of today need to be visionaries, strategists, innovators, coaches, and learners all at once. They must inspire trust, encourage collaboration, and promote a culture of continuous learning and innovation.

Furthermore, they need to harness the power of technology, not as a means of control, but as a tool to empower their teams and enhance organizational capabilities. They must become comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, seeing them as opportunities for growth and innovation rather than threats. They need to promote resilience, not just within themselves but also within their teams and organizations.

To be a leader in today’s world is to be at the forefront of change, to disrupt and be disrupted, and yet stay centered and maintain a clear vision of a sustainable and inclusive future.


From agrarian societies through the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age, to the present era of meta-disruption, the ontology of leadership has continually evolved in response to disruptive forces. Today’s leaders need to be adaptable, innovative, and resilient, with a deep understanding of technology and a strong focus on people and sustainability. They must be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, turning challenges into opportunities for growth.

Next Steps

The reimagining of leadership is an ongoing process. As we continue to experience disruptions at an accelerated pace, it becomes imperative for leaders to commit to continuous learning, adaptability, and innovation. They must embrace technology and digital transformation, but also uphold human values, ethics, and inclusivity. As we move forward, the leaders who can balance these complex demands and thrive amidst disruption will shape the future of our societies and our world.

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