Everyday leaders are asked to make decisions that can drive revenue, impact employees and influence customer loyalty. Thinking through all the possible outcomes and preparing for the potential unknown variables can change the trajectory of a business and its leaders. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) may best explain the current circumstances we find ourselves living through.
VUCA is a term coined by the US military during the post-Cold War decade, as they began to train their leaders in new ways to approach problems and strategically plan for combat with limitless boarders and mobile targets using unconventional weapons. This became relevant in the business community when leaders began to manage through the challenges of geopolitical disruption, global supply chain logistics, the emergence of internet commerce and the threat associated with cyber-warfare. These challenges have channeled energies around advanced data analytics and detailed metrics to better predict outcomes and manage risk.
To thrive and successfully provide leadership in a VUCA world, managers will have to prepare and think differently. Well known futurist and author, Bob Johansen writes in his book, Leaders Make the Future, “We are in a time of disruptive change—traditional leadership skills won’t be enough.” He goes on to state that, “leaders will increasingly face challenges that have no solution.” The current disruption the COVID-19 health crisis has caused globally, is exactly what Bob is detailing. To be effective in a VUCA world with extreme levels of turbulence and market fluctuation, Johansen believes leaders must be flexible, actively engage with fear and confusion and provide mental as well as spiritual energy. This will position leaders to provide the counter to VUCA which is Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility.
I whole heartedly buy in to Bob Johansen’s assessment of what leaders will be required to possess in this changing world. I interpret this to mean that successful leaders in a VUCA world will need to: