Ben Holliday

Disrupters vs Unifiers

Learning to play distinct roles at different times

Shakespeare’s Macbeth: Act 2

I had to ask myself the other week – am I being disruptive enough or have I become a unifier? I think that there’ a distinction. Organisations go through different phases or shift focus, often deliberately. Individuals have to learn to play distinct roles. You can see this in different management and communication styles.


Disrupters are short term. They shake things up and challenge how things are done without compromise. They make and enforce tough decisions, but slowly start to burn their bridges.

This is a focussed communication style with a clear and concise message.


Unifiers are never the first people in the room. They arrive and get people talking to each other again. They make friends and influence people, making gradual but steady progress over a longer period. The most influential unifiers arrive in act 2 just as the biggest disrupters are about to leave the building.

This is a lighter and more generalised communication style that doesn’t exclude anybody.

Who are you?

Here’s the secret.

I think most designers and researchers have to switch between both roles. Designers tend to spend more time disrupting, and researchers have to spend more time unifying.

Most CEO’s or senior leaders get to pick one, or they switch less frequently, or less effectively.

The role our leaders play always defines their legacy, short, and/or longterm impact. The question is how long you’re able to stick around if you’ve burnt one too many bridges, or want to stick around if your impact is limited by bringing together everyone else’s view of the world except your own.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.