Be Bold or Be Beige



by Amanda Arriaga and Jessica Ballew

Texas Department of Public Safety                                 

Austin, Texas, USA                                            



Chaos can be defined as a state of confusion in which chance is extreme, while disruption is typically considered to be an interruption of unity.   Chaos and disruption are typically considered to be related adjectives that typically describe a negative situation, but they do not have the same meeting. In fact, when it comes to the leadership domain, disruption does not necessarily equate to a negative circumstance. While chaos is almost always harmful, disruption can be considered quite the opposite.

Disruptive Leadership is on the rise and is causing organizations to think beyond how they have always done it. New perspectives are sometimes considered bold and scary.

Traditional managers do what is expected of them, but their style is considered beige, rather than bold.

Typically, we identify executives as those most likely to be disruptive leaders, particularly if they are new to the organization and have not yet been incorporated into the culture.

But if a project team is comprised of all disruptive leaders, with their own disruptive ideas, would that be a benefit, or would it cause chaos? Conversely, what would happen if the team consisted only of traditionalists?

What is a Disruptive Leader?

A traditional leader is one who understands the charge ahead and seeks to meet that charge exactly. You may also think of this leader as “beige”. This leader gets the job done adequately, but is more likely to support maintaining the status quo or to look for ways to minimize deviation from “the way we’ve always done it” when change does become necessary. You may think of this person as a “manager” more than as a leader.

A disruptive leader on the other hand, not only meets their objectives, but they also challenge convention when it comes to those objectives. The disruptive leader will likely ask “why” before beginning their role, and then will look for new and innovative ways to accomplish the goal. They must also seek out ways to expand or modify services to adapt to an ever changing environment as opposed to focusing primarily on changes to the methods of development or delivery of existing services.

Disruptive leaders may initially scare a traditional organization with their new ideas. Examples of disruptive leaders include Steve Jobs and Gordon Ramsay. Both are known to ask “why” in harsh tones, but they ultimately receive the results they are seeking. In the context of a commercial kitchen, it may be important to ensure your staff knows, in no uncertain terms, why the chicken cannot be raw.

How does this translate to your organization? If you are a steward of public or private funds, you would likely want to ensure that your staff also knows what the consequences are of their actions (or inactions).


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 11th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in August 2017. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.

About the Authors

Amanda Arriaga, JD

Austin, TX, USA



Amanda Arriaga
is the Chief Administrative Officer at the Texas Department of Public Safety, overseeing the functions of Human Resources, Facilities, Procurement & Contracts and Enterprise Projects. She is also the co-chair of the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communication (TASSCC) Special Interest Group in Project Management, and Immediate Past President of the Austin Young Lawyer’s Association. Amanda earned her BBA in Management from Texas A&M University and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. She has served as Governor Rick Perry’s Special Assistant for Homeland Security and Border Affairs and DPS Chief of Government and Media Relations. Amanda can be contacted at [email protected]

To view more works by Amanda Arriaga, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/amanda-arriaga/


Jessica Ballew

Austin, TX, USA


Jessica Iselt Ballew
is the Deputy Assistant Director for Policy and Planning at the Texas Department of Public Safety, overseeing enterprise projects, procurements, and contracts.  She is co-chair of the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communication (TASSCC) Special Interest Group in Project Management. Jessica has a B.S. in Communications through Arizona State University.  In addition, she has over 18 years of experience in the planning, development, and delivery of information technology solutions and conducting business and process analysis to achieve operational improvement. Email: [email protected]

To view more works by Jessica Iselt Ballew, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/jessica-iselt-ballew/