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Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership Talent



Rapid changes in the global orbit, whether these are demographics, politics, pandemics or even technology shifts, all have considerable implications for leaders. The current world context is disrupting leadership practices because they are no longer meeting the needs of organizations and are forcing the reimagining of the talent needed to lead in this volatile era. The purpose of this article is to first identify the major drivers of the disruption. Secondly, to examine leadership through Humanocracy termed by Hamel and Zanini [1]. Third, there is a conversation around being able to adapt to the speed of change through a process of hyper-learning, that transitions to hyper-leading [2, 3]. Finally, as all great writing connects to theories, this article will include IQ, EQ, CQ, and LQ and their relevancy to leading through disruption.
International Journal of
Business and Management Research (IJBMR)
Open Access | Rapid and quality publishing Review Article | Volume 9, Issue 2 | Pages 118-123 | e-ISSN: 2347-4696
Website: Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership
ABSTRACT: Rapid changes in the global orbit, whether these are demographics, politics, pandemics or even technology
shifts, all have considerable implications for leaders. The current world context is disrupting leadership practices because they are
no longer meeting the needs of organizations and are forcing the reimagining of the talent needed to lead in this volatile era.
The purpose of this article is to first identify the major drivers of the disruption. Secondly, to examine leadership through
Humanocracy termed by Hamel and Zanini [1]. Third, there is a conversation around being able to adapt to the speed of change
through a process of hyper-learning, that transitions to hyper-leading [2, 3]. Finally, as all great writing connects to theories, this
article will include IQ, EQ, CQ, and LQ and their relevancy to leading through disruption.
Keywords: Leadership, Disruption, Humanocracy, Design thinking, Agile leading, Growth mindset, Innovative thinking,
Hyper-Learning, Hyper-Leading
The global turmoil, whether it is a pandemic of galactic size, a
political upheaval, an economic crisis, or even a seismic shift
in the technology, disruption is shifting the role of leadership
as we know it. To reimagine how to lead in the disruptive
landscape, there are four actions needed to incorporate into
organizational conversations: reality, relevancy, rethinking,
and reimagining. The shadow side of not paying attention to
those four objectives causes leaders to fruitlessly waste time
and money by focusing on superficial skills and abilities.
To illustrate the thinking behind the major drivers causing the
disruption, one only needs to conjure up a dystopian version of
reality. Literature describes the themes of a dystopian
viewpoint of what might happen to the world: society
rebellion, political oppression, revolutions, wars, and climate
disasters [4]. Keep in mind that the opposite is utopia, which is
not reality, yet many leaders still use that mindset to lead,
which is irrelevant in today’s global landscape.
The right leaders in this disruptive era will undoubtedly
emerge and so the question is, what form will these leaders
take? If we do this wisely, we can bet on two things. First, that
leading will be directly relevant to the global drivers. Second,
bet that the leaders will need to be realistic and responsive to
the talent constraints in the organization. This will require
them to deal with a threshold handicap they must overcome
which is the inertia of ‘it has always been thus’ – a syndrome
that too often fools leaders in any enterprise [4]. Now one
might ask, how does a leader shrug off that syndrome to
successfully lead through disruptive times? The simple answer
is right in front of us; however, let us not use the utopia lens to
see, but rather the realistic lens. Redefining what it means to
lead on a global scale is constantly being redefined and is
more acute than ever before [5]. The current world context is
responsible for the dark side of such a global stage; growing
inequality, unemployment, underemployment, and increased
global mobility due to forced migration. Thus, these disruption
challenges have created dynamic and complex changes that
are introducing challenges for those who dare to lead [2, 6].
This will also challenge leaders to get their myopia corrected;
meaning facing any disruptive issue with a broader view and
broaden participation by others [4]. With this broader picture
of leadership capacity, the visual expands to incorporate
organizational diversity. The importance of this is to stop the
stampede toward a single, homogeneous model of leadership.
Iger [7] posited from his 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney
Company, that diversity is critical to the success of an
organization, which means leaders must build a culture of trust
based on the brilliance of diversity, fuel a deep and abiding
curiosity throughout the organization, and always have the
back of all employees when facing things that are difficult to
face [7]. Iger stated:
When in a position of real leadership, be decent to people,
treat everyone with fairness and empathy. This does not mean
that you lower your expectations or convey the message that
mistakes do not matter but rather it means you create an
environment where people know you will hear them out, that
you are emotionally consistent and fair-minded, and that they
will be given second chances for honest mistakes [7].
In her book, Dare to Lead, Brown [6] challenged leaders to
step up to the ideas of daring greatness through diversity,
rising strong and braving the wild unknown, escalating into
being change makers and culture shifters. One must lead with
intentionality in reimaging and re-engineering their leadership
Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership
Dr. Linda Ellington
Professor of Business, Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, USA
*Correspondence: Dr. Linda Ellington,
Author(s): Dr. Linda Ellington
Received: 25 Feb, 2021; Accepted: 07 April, 2021; Published: 19 Apr, 2021;
e-ISSN: 2347-4696;
Paper Id: BMN-IJBMR-2021-28;
International Journal of
Business and Management Research (IJBMR)
Open Access | Rapid and quality publishing Review Article | Volume 9, Issue 2 | Pages 118-123 | e-ISSN: 2347-4696
Website: Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership
practices and welcome the fact that people-centric
organizations tend to come up with many different
associations, as least of which are idiosyncratic and possibly
unique which builds into the idea of humanocracy. Even as we
look back into history, Tolle [8] told us that the mind gives
form to the creative impulse or insight and even the greatest
scientists have reported that creativity is a result of leaders and
followers who do not know how to stop thinking.
In this age of disruption, top-down power structures and rule-
choked systems are liabilities. They crush creativity and stifle
initiative. Drawing on more than a decade of research, Hamel
and Zanini [1] noted when leaders run out of patience with
bureaucracy and if a leader wants to build an organization that
can out-run change and is committed to giving every team
member the chance to learn, grow and contribute, then the
unstoppable movement to create an organization that is fit for
the future and fit for human beings will be reality. Hardiman
[8] noted that creativity is a hallmark of 21st century people
skills. Hardiman stated, “The brain processes information
when people are engaged in creative tasks, as opposed to
ordinary activities that depend on rote knowledge” [9].
According to Gardner [10] leaders should inspire creativity
throughout the organization. However, like intelligence, the
term creativity has been applied over the years as an honorific
label to a wide range of individuals and situations. But as
happened with the term intelligence, it is necessary to shift
from the individual mind to the broader idea of distributed
sociocultural bases of intelligence that then extends the nature
of creativity where people tend to come up with many
different associations in solving problems [11, 12]. Hamel and
Zanini described this phenomenon as humanocracy [1]. One
might explore future research that may be able to develop a
theory, and thus identify leadership competencies of a
humanocracy leader.
Through the practices of humanocracy, the time to dismantle
bureaucracy effectively, passionately, and comprehensively is
now; and how this is done is to reimagine leadership abilities
that can revitalize organizations. Hamel and Zanini [1] issued
a stirring call for leaders to do better to build organizations
that liberate the everyday genius of the people inside the
organization. Be the leader who infuses the spirit of creativity
and a growth mindset that inspires the future organization; be
the leader who replaces chain of command with chain of trust
and radical transparency; be the leader who unlocks game-
changing innovation [1, 13, 14]. Be the leader who can
identify and achieve the right goals for the organizations and
communities they serve. This is needed now more than ever,
especially at the micro and macro levels of leadership.
Micro level is when workers are pressured by the move to a
shared economy, the untethering of work from a physical
location, the displacement of human labor by technology and
growing demands for diversity, inclusion, and belonging [15].
As employment status shifts from gainful employment by a
company to multiple independent and less secure worker
modalities, employees are forced to change careers due to (in)
voluntary disruptions or setbacks, constantly needing to re-
create themselves, and build a greater resilience into their
career journey.
Macro level is societal which is already strained and
threatened by the global risk context. The strains are due to
demographic pressures, fear of robotics and artificial
intelligence supplanting many low and mid-tier jobs, the
lingering impact of the global economic downturn, the mass
migration of labor, the hollowing out of work, and growing
income inequality [15].
Based on Claus [2] and Hess’s [3] call for action a leader
needs to turn dead end jobs into get-ahead jobs – which is
possible if the leader treats every person and their respective
role as indispensable to collective success.
Thus, the call to action is:
Create a hyper learning environment: continuous learning,
unlearning, and relearning at the speed of change [3].
Humanize the workplace to optimize the power of human
cognitive, emotional, and behavioral performance
individually and organizationally [1].
Create an environment to think differently knowing the
key likes, making everyone in the organization feel
differently that then fuels action by showing people potent
reasons for change that spark their emotions [16].
Foster intrapreneurial thinkers within the organization
Make decisions in environments with lots of uncertainty and
little data; and connect with other human beings through high
emotional engagement and collaboration [3, 10].
The most important of all will be the ability to deal with
change, learn new things, and preserve a mental balance in
unfamiliar situations. Hess stated, A symphony of
synchronicity is, quite simply, beautiful. One cannot help but
be impressed by what human beings can accomplish when
they work in concert” [3].
To lead through the disruptions, leaders need to have the talent
to play a game with interchangeable pieces. However, as
Miller [13] noted a leader who cannot just keep jumping from
activity to activity will continue to play checkers when the
name of the game is chess. If one is playing checkers in a
chess world, the leader will remain playing small and will not
be a critical-shift thinker who can succeed.
Therefore, if a leader accepts the challenge to be the leader
needed now, they must elevate their leadership game or at the
minimum know which game is being played. Possibly we
could state that leadership has always demanded the best, and
maybe that has not changed, but something has complexity
is the primary culprit. Although, the title of Miller’s book,
Chess not Checkers, is a metaphor for leaders, it is much more
International Journal of
Business and Management Research (IJBMR)
Open Access | Rapid and quality publishing Review Article | Volume 9, Issue 2 | Pages 118-123 | e-ISSN: 2347-4696
Website: Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership
than that [13]. He explained chess is a game that requires
leaders to know that individual pieces have unique abilities
that drive unique ‘moves’ to win [13]. This metaphor could be
the blueprint for future leading and Dweck [14] agreed that the
future game plan is for leaders to substitute their old way of
thinking for a new mindset: a growth-mindset in the game of
Miller identified four moves based on the game of chess that
can ‘elevate a leader’s game’ [13].
Move One: Bet on Leadership: Growing leaders grow
Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.
Move Two: Act as One: Alignment multiplies impact.
You will never really act as one unless you master cascading
Move Three: Win the Heart: Engagement energizes effort.
Never underestimate the power of those on the front lines
doing the work.
Move Four: Excel at Execution: Greatness hinges on
To help your team improve execution, measure what matters.
Dweck reiterated Miller’s gaming idea as she amplified that
the strategic moves in chess should include a mindset concept
that is beyond the individual, applying it to the cultures of
groups and organizations. This growth-mindset theory and
practice identified by Dweck [14] and Collins [18] bolsters
leaders to become great chess players who:
Are self-effacing people.
Constantly asking questions.
Able to confront the most brutal answers.
Constantly trying to improve.
Move with confidence that is grounded in facts, not built
on fantasies about their talent.
Speaking of game playing, Palus and Horth [19] noted that the
ways leaders and their followers develop efficacy during
change is to understand that chaos in organizations is not
random and everyone needs to understand that playing the
right game is essential to foster creativity and innovation.
“Fundamental innovation and creativity come from serious
play on the fringes of the organization.” [19]. They identified
three play activities that leaders can take:
Constantly ask questions.
Learn to seek the patterns for their own sake before trying
to exploit them.
Deliberately introduce a small, temporary number of
disruptions and then observe how the old patterns shift
and new one’s form.
Be the leader who has the talent and courage to create an
organization that is not brittle and not backward-looking. This
type of leadership pessimistic view would be justified except
for one salient fact:
As human beings we are resilient, inventive, and exuberant.
The fact that organizations are not suggests that in some
important ways, the organizations are less human than we are.
Ironically, it seems that human-build organizations have scant
room for exactly those things that make us furless bipeds
special things like courage, intuition, love, playfulness, and
artistry [1].
It would behoove us to pay attention to a different way of
viewing our organizations. Dweck [14], Collins [18], and Hess
[3] told us to shift to a growth-mindset concept because that
way of rethinking has the power to motivate those we lead, to
transform organizations, and to inspire followers to want to
follow us.
To proliferate the growth-mindset conversations we should
examine the philosophies from the world’s highest performing
leaders and their extraordinary stories of being pioneering
agents of change as identified in Rubenstein’s book, How to
Lead (2020). He identified and described 31 best-known
leaders and how their leadership grew over the course of a life
and career. Their stories reveal the value that a leader can
bring to a challenge, often affecting humanity in profoundly
positive ways which supports the research of Hess [3] relevant
to humanocracy. Rubenstein not only shared each of the 31
leaders’ principles and practices but was able to categorize the
leaders as: visionaries, guilders, transformers, commanders,
decision makers, and masters. Rubenstein stated, “I was
always fascinated with leadership and specifically, what
individual leaders can accomplish by the power of their
intellect, level of their unique skill, force of their personality,
or effectiveness of their ability to persuade” [3].
The edited work of Sowick [20], supported the notion that
challenges of leadership are growing and not shrinking. It
would benefit leaders to read Mack’s chapter, Leadership in
the Future in Sowick’s edited book [21] in which he stated, “I
will propose at the outset that the future of leadership is the
future of humanity and when thinking about what is relevant
in leadership, it is difficult not to respond, ‘what is not?’ [21].
Leaders of the future must embrace imagination and
innovating thinking (rethinking) as essential to both
identification of emerging problems and crafting of workable
solutions. Workable means “resources, including political will,
are available for solution design and successful
implementation in a global context” [20]. Heifetz [22] also
stated that indeed there are no easy answers but leaders in the
future must understand what is realistically happening in the
profound transformation of new values, new connections, and
new tools where many old approaches and resources are
International Journal of
Business and Management Research (IJBMR)
Open Access | Rapid and quality publishing Review Article | Volume 9, Issue 2 | Pages 118-123 | e-ISSN: 2347-4696
Website: Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership
Burn & Houston’s chapter, Social Artistry: A Whole System
Approach to Sustainable Analysis and Leadership Practices
[23], noted that it is not only imperative for leaders to think
differently in the future, but also to incorporate additional
leadership capacity that comes from social artistry. By that
they mean the ability to connect by incorporating emotion and
spirit, connecting to Hess’s 2020 research of humanocracy.
The call for social artistry comes from the realization that
leaders must grasp reality in knowing there is a re-patterning
of human nature to one of global citizenry, as well as the re-
genesis of society through changes in existing social structure,
institutions, and governments. This social artistry contains a
four-level system change in sensory-physical, psychological-
historic, mythic-symbolic, and integral-unitive methods of
leading [23]. One might ask is social artistry mirroring the
concept of design thinking.
According to Siang [24] design thinking is a non-linear,
iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge
assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative
solutions. It is about the principles of designing to the way
people work [25]. This type of thinking uses mainly abductive
reasoning namely to conjecture what could possibly be true
and ‘actively look for data points, challenge accepted
explanations and infer possible new worlds [26].
One of the hallmarks of design thinking is simplicity: reducing
unnecessary workplace complexity, designing employee
solutions that are compelling, enjoyable, and simple [27].
Craig [4] quoted John Ruskin, a Victorian artist who stated “It
is far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated; far
more difficult to sacrifice skill and easy execution in the
proper place than to expand both indiscriminately” [4]. A
design-centric concept focuses on the emotional experiences
of organizational stewards (employees), creates models to
examine complex problems in the workplace, uses prototypes
to explore potential solutions, and tolerates failure. Thus, a
new leadership talent is evolving centering on needed societal
interventions, shared responsibility, and coordination at
various levels - employees, employers, and the broader
One of the emerging talents is to be able to incorporate the
agile leading component of the process for work to be done in
team configuration that is network-based and flatter
organizational structures leaving greater control over their
work and empowerment to employees [4]. Agile
methodologies are being applied to general management and
yet have great multiple applications going up the leadership
hierarchy of the organization [28]. Exemplars of some agile
concepts and tools are project charter, personas, user stories,
SCRUM teams, product backlog, sprints, stand-up meetings,
and sprint retrospectives [29, 30].
By not being an agile leader, mistakes will stem from lack of
clarity about the goals and objectives of the organizational
vision and direction. Mistakes created from teams who have
not been empowered the freedom to explore alternatives or
from teams who have not been given enough time to choose
thoughtfully from the alternatives they have invented or
discovered is the failure of the leader who did not consider the
ramifications of making changes. Thus, an important
characteristic of an agile leader is one who moves from hyper-
learning to hyper-leading.
There are a growing number of research findings from the
neuro and cognitive sciences that can inform the learning to
leading process [9]. She separates neuromyth from
neuroscience by considering that neuromyths are not only
incorrect in the transition from learning to leading, but also
organizational employees are forced by policymakers to use
methods that are not relevant to an unstable and chaotic world.
To stay relevant throughout a disruptive time one must be able
to excel cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally in ways
that technology cannot. To transition from a hyper-learner to a
hyper-leader it is imperative to overcome the reflexive ways of
seeking confirmation of what we believe, emotionally
defending our beliefs and our ego, and seeking cohesiveness
of our mental models [3, 9]. “Although many of us may think
of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are
feeling creatures that think” [31].
Hess [3], Hardiman [9] and Dweck [14] agreed that changing
our behaviors requires changing our way of being – our
internal story of who we are and how the world works. Hess
noted that before we can enable ourselves to become hyper-
learners growing into hyper-leaders, we need to create the
right mindset – a story of why we should change [14]. Dweck
[14] supported this idea as documented her book, Mindset that
the view that we adopt for ourselves profoundly affects the
way one leads their life and leads others [14]. Thus, her
philosophy called the growth-mindset, is based on the
knowledge that the basic qualities of our thinking cultivate
efforts, targeted strategies, and help from others. To illustrate
the framework of a growth-mindset:
Find challenges for you to grow.
Seek experiences that will stretch you.
Use the passion for stretching oneself and sticking to it,
even when it is not going well [14].
Connecting to the cognitive aspect of hyper-leading, Hardiman
noted that there is an intricate interplay between cognition and
emotion. Burn & Houston’s chapter in edited book by Sowick,
[23] supported Hardiman’s theory as they noted that
leadership capacity comes from social artistry; meaning the
ability to connect by incorporating emotion and creativity. To
expand on the work by Hardiman [9], Burn and Houston, both
neuroscientists continued to demonstrate differences in how
the brain processes information when humans are engaged in
creative, spontaneous tasks, as opposed to activities that
depend on rote knowledge.
International Journal of
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Open Access | Rapid and quality publishing Review Article | Volume 9, Issue 2 | Pages 118-123 | e-ISSN: 2347-4696
Website: Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership
From their research and findings, they determined that leaders
need to:
Gain a new vision.
Create a workplace environment for one to know
“construction zone: brains in progress.”
Encourage everyone to do new things, not simply
repeating what other generations have done.
Foster ample opportunities to have everyone be inventive
and to apply knowledge in ways that contribute to
developing and fostering the creative / curious mind.
Provide time that promotes divergent thinking thus
allowing for new and distinct free-flowing thoughts.
We know that our capacity to lead is not fixed in stone at birth
as everyone has high potential to grow. We all can learn to
lead no matter what our IQ score is. Let that quotient not be
our obstacle or excuse for not taking bold steps into being the
leader who takes their organizations to higher heights moving
through the global orbit.
Theories that are widely known range from intelligence (IQ),
emotions (EQ), curiosity (CQ) and a relatively new term that
relates to leadership quotation (LQ). Most of us are familiar
with IQ and EQ and the properties of CQ; however, recently
there is a trend to expand quotient theories to include the
concept of LQ, or the Leadership Quotient.
The oldest of the three Q theories mentioned above is the well-
known IQ. It measures cognitive ability and assigns a value.
This value describes how one’s measured intelligence falls
within the range of the whole population. Meanwhile, EQ is
often defined as emotional intelligence and is a measure of the
level of ability to understand other people, what motivates
them and how well one can work cooperatively with them.
Businesses and other major organizations have begun to
consider EQ in potential hires, particularly leaders. They claim
that the EQ is a better predictor of executive success and the
ability to develop business growth strategies than other
measures, including IQ.
One might say it is a new neighborhood in which LQ moved
into. LQ has joined the quotient theoretical research and a
wide variety of researchers, authors and organizations have
developed ways to measure LQ. According to Murphy [32]
Steven Covey’s Leadership Quotient is the most popular. His
is a measure of ability against the four main imperatives of
leadership: develop trust, clarify purpose, align systems, and
unleash talent. One might ponder why the leadership quotient
works, especially on the global scale. It works because it is a
loud wake-up call for any leader who is still trying to apply
old leadership paradigms to today’s workforce. In addition to
individual empowerment being a driving force behind the re-
engineering of their skills and talents, cultural diversity has
forever changed the world of work. Appreciating the impact
that the quotient leadership has on increasing organizational
profits, this style of leader understands how to motivate
employees without invoking hierarchal authority. The global
quotient leaders flatten their immediate playing field, their
employees gain the security and freedom to contribute beyond
the status quo, which in turns heats up creativity, productivity,
and profits [33].
Simply put, Snyder uses the analogy through a story:
Increasing access to specialized knowledge about our
organizations transforms the way employees feel about their
organizational leaders. Knowledge serves as the lens through
which we view the world. It is like watching a baseball game
from the announcer’s booth versus the dugout. From the
announcer’s booth we have a seat with the power to change
both our comprehension and convictions about the game.
Why? Because from this zoomed-out vantage point we gain
new specialized knowledge about what is really occurring on
the field – knowledge we never would possess from the
depressed elevation of the dugout [33].
In characterizing an era with a specific label, one runs the risk
of making a claim that cannot be substantiated. And yet, the
leadership disruption label fits clearly in the 21st century as
the global planet seems to be under a strong magnetic force of
uncertainty and chaos. Leading through disruption presents a
unique set of opportunities and challenges for leaders to not
only reinvent themselves but to reimagine their organizations.
Leaders will need a distinct set of skills to lead successfully
through the disruption: act decisively, never panic,
communicate clear directions to the teams, solve problems
creatively, and achieve the results to be the most thorough
transformation [4]. Adding to the label disruptive leadership,
Palus and Horth [19] contend that the words volatile,
multidimensional, and unprecedented are key descriptors when
leading through challenges.
An overarching aim of this article has been to demonstrate that
the study of disruptive leadership can inform as well as be
informed by the research on the phenomena of global shifts
due to disruption and its relationship in the sciences of the
mind. The certainty for leaders is that the future will hold yet
more disruptions. And yet, the annoyance of disruptions
provides a fascinating window of how leadership will change
The article hopefully inspires readers to develop new and
relevant practices in the field of disruptive leadership studies.
Raelin [12] described this field as ‘leadership-as-practice”
movement. The essence of the practice is a coordinative effort
among people, whether leaders or followers, who choose
through their own rules to achieve a distinctive outcome. It
also tends to encompass creative problem-solving that are
shared within a community. We live in a world of accelerating
change, where the future is less and less an extrapolation of
the past. Change is unrelenting, pitiless, and occasionally
shocking. As Hamel & Zanini told us, “Welcome to the age of
upheaval” [1].
International Journal of
Business and Management Research (IJBMR)
Open Access | Rapid and quality publishing Review Article | Volume 9, Issue 2 | Pages 118-123 | e-ISSN: 2347-4696
Website: Leadership Disruption: Time to Reimagine Leadership
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Rapid changes in demographics, technology and globalization have considerable global implications for work and the worker. This new context is also disrupting talent management as known for the last two decades. Progressive companies in all sectors realize that their talent management practices are no longer meeting the needs of their workers. Instead, employers focus their attention on developing a meaningful employee experience to attract and nurture the talent they need. A new breed of talent management practitioners is developing an HR stack that includes other management frameworks such as design thinking, agile management, behavioral economics and analytics to augment their HR competencies. Organizations will be unable to reinvent their existing talent management practices in a sustainable way unless they broaden the talent management conversation. JEL classification: J24 human capital, M10 business administration general, Keywords: Talent management, Disruption, HR stack, Design thinking, Agile management, Behavioral economics, HR analytics, Global HR.
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