Prof Sattar Bawany’s Interview with “Leadership in Disruptive Times”

Loading Please tell us more about yourself. Our readers would like to know your current and past professional experience, academic background and also what are you are working on.

Prof Bawany: I am currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the Disruptive Leadership Institute (DLI) and the Centre for Executive Education (CEE).

I was awarded the “2019 Executive of the Year for Human Resources Consulting” at the Singapore Business Review (SBR) Management Excellence Awards 2019.

Over the past 30 years, I have been partnering with clients globally across various industries, in delivering c-suite executive coaching engagement as well as developed a series of management professional development initiatives designed to enhance the managerial leadership capabilities in leading in a highly disruptive and digital-driven workplace.

In addition to my business and consulting career, I have over 20 years of concurrent academic experience as an Adjunct Professor teaching senior executives, leadership and organizational behaviour, international business strategies, and human resource courses at various leading universities globally.

I am presently the Professor of Practice of Disruptive Leadership for the MBA in Disruptive Leadership & Digital Transformation by the IPE Management School, Paris. Before this appointment, I was an Adjunct Professor with Curtin Graduate School of Business (CGSB), Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia and also a member of its CGSB Advisory Board.

I have a Bachelors in Business Management Degree from Curtin University and an Executive Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, USA.

As for my current projects, along with my global team at the Disruptive Leadership Institute (DLI), we are designing and developing a series of C-Suite Leadership Masterclass and Executive Coaching to prepare leaders to manage effectively the disruptive challenges in the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ digital-driven era of the future workplace Tell us more about the books you have written, where did you get your inspiration from?

Prof Bawany: Over the past 30 years, I have written articles on the following related themes: Leadership Development, Employee Engagement and Managing Across Generational Gap, Strategic Human Resource Management, and Talent Management & Succession Planning.

I was a Contributing Author for the Chapter on “Maximising the Potential of Future Leaders” for the book “Coaching in Asia” which was published in 2010.

The next book was on “Transforming the Next Generation of Leaders: Developing Future Leaders for a Disruptive, Digital-Driven Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)” published by Business Expert Press (BEP) LLC, New York in July 2019.

My latest book on “Leadership in Disruptive Times” also published by BEPk was published in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The book focusses on navigating the organizational challenges following the aftermath of the unprecedented global COVID-19 crisis by providing organizations with the relevant tools, frameworks and best practice approach to develop and map their digital transformation journey in today’s highly disruptive, increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) and the digital-driven era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).

Both books have been endorsed by leading global thought leaders, CEOs, CHROs and business practitioners globally including Dr Marshall Goldsmith, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Triggers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There as well Thinkers 50 – #1 Executive Coach and the only two-time #1 Leadership Thinker in the World.

I was inspired by the various stories (both success and failures) of my coaching clients over the years when I partnered with them in their leadership development journey.

My twin sons, Adam & Danial, who are now in their late 20s have also been an inspiration to me. Their resilience and mental agility and grasp of the advanced technologies including AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain, IoT, IoS simply amaze me. Through them, I adopt what is known as “Reverse Mentoring” where they became my mentors towards understanding the impact of various technologies in both their personal and professional lives. “Transforming Next Generation of Disruptive Digital Leaders for Industry 4.0.” What kind of roles are leaders playing during these digital times? Are the next generation leaders too digitalized? Where is the fine balance?

Prof Bawany: First of all, we need to understand what is the profile of a typical next generation of ‘disruptive digital leader’? They are the future leaders who are deemed to be “high potential” as they have broader skillsets that equip them to think critically and act globally in a continuously changing, hypercompetitive and highly disruptive and digital-driven and VUCA centric era business environment. They are resilient and agile and able to can consistently achieve business goals and targets as well as have the ability to navigate transformational change at the disruptive and digital-driven workplace of the future.

From the multigenerational workforce perspective, these next generation of leaders includes both the Gen Y/Millenials, born from 1980 to 1994 and the Gen Z/Digital Natives, who are born between 1995 to 2010. The workforce of both of these generations is replacing rapidly Gen X and Baby Boomers at the workplace.

Yes, the next generation of leaders (Gen Y & Z) are indeed digital-savvy but not necessarily “too digitalized”. At the workplace are confident, ambitious, driven by high achievement and have equally high expectations of their employers. With this, they take an assignment-based approach to employment and seek out new challenges more often than previous generations many of whom were brought up in a culture where job tenure was encouraged and comparatively more common.

Gen Zers are digital natives as they were born in the era of smartphones and they are used to multiple devices. The result is that they have a much shorter attention span, they are extremely comfortable multitasking. They’re incredibly self-reliant, resourceful, and pragmatic. There’s a lot of rich information and content on the web and they know how to find it quickly, so they don’t feel they need to take a back seat to somebody just because that other person has more experience. This applies to the younger millennials, too.

Selected roles that both are predominantly found or required in Industry 4.0 business-driven organizations would include Controls Systems Engineer, Cobot Engineer, Automation Engineer, Validation Engineer, Equipment Systems Engineer, Data Scientist, Robotics Engineer, IT Solution Architect, UI and UX Designer and Project Manager. Are we ready for Industry 4.0? Where are we in the “Industry 4.0” Revolution?

Prof Bawany: First, let’s define what exactly is Industry 4.0? The Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 as it is commonly known, represents the combination of artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), the Internet of Systems (IoS) and other advanced technologies leveraging on the power of the internet.

In short, it is the idea of smart factories in which machines are augmented with web connectivity and connected to a system that can visualize the entire production chain and make decisions on its own. In this fourth revolution, a range of new technologies will evolve that combine the physical, digital and biological worlds. These new technologies will impact all disciplines, economies, and industries, and even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human[1] (Bawany, 2019).

The primary aim of Industry 4.0 is the digitalization of manufacturing and business processes to create Smart Factories. The objectives are to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and develop new sales opportunities.

In Singapore, many organizations have already been impacted by the digital revolution and have benefited at the same time from the application of Industry 4.0 advanced technologies, these would include those from the healthcare, education, travel and tourism, aviation and logistics & supply chain industries amongst others.

At the heart of Industry 4.0 is the Internet of Things (IoT). Put simply, IoT refers to a network of physical devices that are digitally interconnected, facilitating the communication and exchange of data through the Internet. These smart devices could be anything from smartphones and household appliances to cars and even buildings. Industrial IoT (IIoT) is a subset of the Internet of Things, where various sensors, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, software and electronics are integrated with industrial machines and systems to collect real-time data about their condition and performance.

The IIoT has many use cases, with asset management and tracking being one of the major applications of the technology today. For example, IIoT can be used is to prevent the overstocking or understocking of inventory. One way to achieve this is to use shelf-fitted sensors and weighing devices to broadcast inventory information to your warehouse management system. Putting such a system in place allows warehouse managers to monitor inventory levels, thereby gaining real-time visibility and control over the inventory.

An example is in the healthcare industry where hospitals and healthcare institutions could deploys radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track and manage thousands of medical supplies. RFID technology uses radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object, such as healthcare supplies. Previously, the process of tracking inventory involved a lot of manual labour. However, monitoring inventory manually can be a challenge, since hospitals purchase a variety of products from suppliers and store a lot of items on-site for specific procedures. One key factor when we talked about Industry 4.0 is that of security. Do you think blockchain technology plays an important role in the security aspects of things when we go full automation or autonomous?

Prof Bawany: Yes, I do believe that blockchain technology (BCT), as part of a set of disruptive technologies in Industry 4.0, has a critical role to play in providing a secured, revolutionary and transformational manner that has changed the future of business across the diverse industry. This is achieved by allowing smart and digitally connected factories to perform more autonomous, efficient, fast and secure processes without the need for a third party to control operations.

BCT provides data immutability, provenance, consistency and failure tolerance and is verifiable and data auditable using built-in cryptographic mechanisms. These features match the low-trust environment of a manufacturing system involving humans and merged in the society. Combining BCTs with smart contracts will enable automated enforcement of some conditions in real-life contracts. “I see blockchain technology as something not that disruptive but instead it is complementing”. Do you agree with this statement? If yes- why? If no- why?

Prof Bawany: I disagree as I have stated earlier, BCT is indeed a disruptive technology.

First, let define what is disruptive before ascertaining whether BCT is disruptive or complementing to the existing technologies in the application to businesses and/or manufacturing processes.

From a business perspective, disruption refers to the act of completely changing the traditional way that an industry or market operates by using new methods or technologies. It could be any innovation within an industry that has the potential to change the way all companies in that industry operate radically with an impact that lasts. Those who have been managing organizations for some time will attest to the fact that disruption, in its various forms, can happen at any time, in any market segment, or any industry[2]. (Bawany, 2020)

From that definition, BCT is indeed a disruptive technology as it allows transactions to be verified by a group of unreliable actors. It provides a distributed, immutable, transparent, secure and auditable ledger. The blockchain can be consulted openly and fully, allowing access to all transactions that have occurred since the first transaction of the system, and can be verified and collated by any entity at any time. The blockchain protocol structures information in a chain of blocks, performed at a given time. Blocks are linked together by a reference to the previous block, forming a chain. Do you then think blockchain has a place in the future?

Prof Bawany: Yes, I do think so as stated earlier that BCT is a disruptive technology that has immense potential that has yet to be fully realized.

We are all aware that Blockchain has the potential to solve enormous issues such as eliminating vast amounts of record-keeping, smart contracts, clearing and settlement or streamlining cross-border payments, all on a distributed ledger without a centrally trusted party.

What began as the basis of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, BCT is essentially a virtual ledger capable of recording and verifying a high volume of digital transactions, has impacted other industries.

Bitcoin’s popularity helped demonstrate blockchain’s application in finance, but entrepreneurs have come to believe the technology could transform many more industries. Ultimately, the business case for the adoption of BCT which is transparent and a verifiable register of transaction data are practically endless especially since blockchains operate through a decentralized platform requiring no central supervision, making them resistant to fraud.

As companies use blockchain to drive greater transparency and veracity across the digital information ecosystem, they’re boosting awareness of the technology in sectors ranging from infrastructure to public policy. Apart from banking and financial services, the are other industries that have begun to harness the power of blockchain technology, including travel & tourism, healthcare, retail, education, entertainment and infrastructure. I know you are not a cryptocurrency expert. Can you share your views on cryptocurrency? Is this an “evil money” like some say? Or a chance to change the current flaws in the financial system? We hope to hear views from seasoned business practitioners and thought-leaders such as yourself.

Prof Bawany: I believe that cryptocurrency has become a global phenomenon in recent years, although much is still to be learned about this evolving technology and how various industries could leverage it.

As I understand it, cryptocurrency is decentralized digital money, based on blockchain technology. Many of us as business practitioners, may be familiar with the most popular versions, Bitcoin and Ethereum, but some reports have been published indicating more than 5,000 different cryptocurrencies in circulation.

The first blockchain-based cryptocurrency was Bitcoin, which remains the most popular and most valuable. Today, there are many alternate cryptocurrencies with various functions and specifications. Some of these are clones or forks of Bitcoin, while others are new currencies that were built from scratch.

Since Bitcoin’s creation in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto is either an individual or group of people whose identity remains unknown today, the cryptocurrency has increasingly gathered global interest.

Recently, Bitcoin has traded above $50,000, which is the key psychological marker. Financial services companies Mastercard and BNY Mellon have announced new Bitcoin initiatives, helping it sustain the phenomenal rise of cryptocurrency. This follows the unexpected announcement by Tesla’s founder & CEO, Elon Musk that his company had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin and would begin accepting payments in the cryptocurrency.

Many industry analysts and cryptocurrency experts believe that digital currency will rise further in 2021.

Cryptocurrencies hold the promise of making it easier to transfer funds directly between two parties, without the need for a trusted third party like a bank or credit card company. These transfers are instead secured by the use of public keys and private keys and different forms of incentive systems, like ‘Proof of Work’ or ‘Proof of Stake’.

In modern cryptocurrency systems, a user’s “wallet” or account address, has a public key, while the private key is known only to the owner and is used to sign transactions. Fund transfers are completed with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the steep fees charged by banks and financial institutions for wire transfers.

Many concerns and worries are swirling around the technology and its capacity to disrupt traditional financial systems. Supporters of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies claim that these financial platforms are inherently trustless systems – that is, they’re not directly tied to any nation-state, government, or body. They would argue that cryptocurrency is superior to traditional physical currencies because it is not dependent on, for instance, the U.S. federal government.

Facebook’s contribution to the cryptocurrency world, Libra, has been hyped in some corners as the answer to a variety of financial issues. In particular, the platform was designed to facilitate international payments and eliminate unnecessary transaction costs and fees.

Finally, Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), an electronic form of central bank money that citizens can use to make digital payments and store value, have recently emerged as a hot topic in the financial space. Banks, Institutions, and governments are performing research and analysis on the economic and technical feasibility of introducing a new form of digital money and its impact on monetary and fiscal policy.

Cryptocurrencies, as we know them today, are extremely volatile and lack government backing — CBDCs overcome these concerns while using the same underlying distributed ledger technology of cryptocurrencies. Governments recognize CBDCs as legal tender in the issuing central bank’s jurisdiction, meaning anyone can use them for payments and every merchant must accept them.

Hence the outlook for cryptocurrency is certainly promising. We often say that technologies like big data, IoT, blockchain, AI etc must work together to get optimum results. But in reality, it does not work well together. Some will say that this is because human beings who are the ones running the technology fail to work together and this is a flaw. What do you think of this statement? Are human beings the ones stopping innovation from happening or go faster or this is just part of the disruptive nature of things?

Prof Bawany: Yes indeed, I believe companies could potentially achieve phenomenal benefits if these advanced technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, IoT, IoS Big Data, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) could be integrated as they could have a profound global impact on business, employees and customers.

The personal computing revolution; the internet, mobile devices that put a supercomputer in the palm of our hand are the various transformational technologies that we have been exposed to before, and we understand that they have the power to change the world as we know it. But each of these past examples emerged gradually and crucially in isolation. We had time to understand the power and grow used to personal computing before the internet arrived and changed the game once more. We were internet-savvy long before smartphones put the web in our pockets. Now, multiple new technologies are emerging all at once: 3D printing, 5G wireless, virtual and augmented reality, and others.

While each of these technologies presents exciting opportunities and significant challenges for the businesses, I consider three of these technologies to be truly transformational: IoT, AI, and blockchain. Alone, any one of these three would have the power to alter business, leisure, and society as a whole. But together, their transformative impact will be unprecedented. This is the first time in modern history that three transformational technologies have emerged in the same generation, and yet it’s a taste of things to come. The digital revolution means technological disruption has changed from a once-in-a-lifetime event to a constant process. Now, any businesses that fall behind will quickly find themselves with an insurmountable gap to close and will lose their competitive advantage.

However, while many CEOs and business leaders are becoming more aware and are getting smart about these technologies and their potential implications for their business, their primary challenge is that these technologies are evolving at a phenomenal speed resulting in them worrying about the speed of technological change and they’re struggling to keep pace. These leaders are lacking the necessary and relevant digital skills to lead and drive their organizations to success in an increasingly disruptive, digitally and VUCA- driven (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) business environment.

Hence the focus of the organization is to put people over process and technology. Leaders need to be equipped with the relevant ‘disruptive digital leadership’ competencies including cognitive readiness, disruptive mental agility, empathy and social skills[3] amongst others to lead their organization to success in an Industry 4.0 competitive business environment (Bawany 2020). Please share an inspiring quote with our readers.

Prof Bawany: Sure.

“In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.”

– Jeff Bezos, Amazon, Founder Thanks Prof for your time. You can contact Prof Sattar Bawany on the following social profiles:

LinkedIn – (Personal);  (CEE) and (DLI)

Facebook: (Personal); (CEE) and (DLI)

Twitter: @sattarbawany (Personal); @cee_global  (CEE) and @disrupt_leaders (DLI)




Original Source:




[1] Bawany, S. 2019. Transforming the Next Generation of Leaders: Developing Future Leaders for a Disruptive, Digital-Driven Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). Business Expert Press (BEP) LLC, New York, NY.

The details on the book are available at and the Sample Chapter and Abstract are available as a download from

[2] Bawany, S. 2020. Leadership in Disruptive Times. Abstract, Business Expert Press (BEP) LLC, New York, NY. The details on the book are available and the Sample Chapter and Abstract is available as a download from

[3] Bawany, S. 2020. Leadership in Disruptive Times. Abstract, Business Expert Press (BEP) LLC, New York, NY. The details on the book are available and the Sample Chapter and Abstract is available as a download from

For a description of  the ‘disruptive digital leadership’ competencies, review the article “Talent Management For A digital-centric Future Workplace: Competency-based selection of future ‘disruptive digital leaders’” which is available online at