February 18, 2020

Earlier this year, Harvard Business School professor and business consultant Clayton Christensen passed away. Christensen was most notably credited for his theory of “disruptive innovation,” which has been called the most influential business idea of the early 21st century. Perhaps his greater impact was a less-publicized, more-personal relationship with his students, collaborators and peers.

His dear friend and colleague Michael B. Horn, co-founder and distinguished fellow of The Clayton Christensen Institute, eulogized Christensen in an article for the Harvard Business Review. Horn shares his intimate gratitude for how Christensen treated other people.

In reflecting on his life, I’ll remember that Clay was moved by kindness. He always put people first as he sought to support them, learn from them, and improve the world with them.

Christensen was known for his softer approach, a man whose speeches were powerful not because of a booming voice or excitable manner but rather for his calm, deliberate and profound choice of words and analogies that left the room captivated.

Horn describes Christensen’s humanity and compassion, and how his greatest pride was for the success and growth of the individuals he coached or mentored.

He viewed management as the noblest of professions — not because of managers’ ability to execute plans or make money, but because of their ability to impact the human lives of those they managed — and, by extension, their families and friends — for the better.

Christensen was humble, never assuming he had all the answers or solutions. Horn tells us he avoided conflict, preferring to keep quiet and ask questions rather than confront or criticize.

Christensen’s legacy is not just that of “disruptive innovation,” but also the qualities of leadership which he fostered and inspired in everyone he connected with.

The only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people. ~ Clayton Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life?