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VUCA is back! Again?

Following the last article one week ago regarding what type of leader you are, I decided to continue this week on how to lead in the transition from VUCA to BANI World as we came out of a two-year pandemic. However, the recent world events with the invasion and war in Ukraine made me rethink that we live in a volatile and uncertain world. This week, I will be focusing on my experience in managing and leading in an ever-changing world, with its complexity and uncertainty, causing us anxiety and ambiguity. 

What is VUCA?

VUCA is more than a buzzword. VUCA acronym developed as the response of the US Army War College to the collapse of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic or simply put it Russia) in the early 1990s stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. It was first used in 1987 and based on the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. It became famous again as the COVID-19 pandemic caused havoc in our society.

Volatility is related to the speed of change of events that unfold in entirely unexpected ways. Uncertainty comes from becoming more difficult to anticipate events or predict how they’ll develop, while Complexity is all about handling multiple decision factors. Ambiguity is the lack of clarity about the meaning of events – there is no right or wrong answer.

“VUCA is more than a buzzword! It is a way of thinking and approaching solutions to the problems of our digital and dynamic world.”

-Glaeser, W. (n.d.)
Managing and Leading in a VUCA World

Much theory and research were done and written on leadership under VUCA. I am not going to bother you with that. Instead, I share with you my experience as a commercial team manager at the start and during the pandemic, when suddenly we were all isolated and working remotely, and where we lost the feeling of belonging.

To handle volatility, managers and leaders need to clearly define and communicate a vision of the team’s future. A clear Vision will give a compass and orientation to the team – be ambitious and bold to create a higher purpose to work for.

Navigating uncertainty, as a leader, you need to Understand, acknowledge and feel comfortable accepting the uncomfortable. Giving the team focus and importance on what is essential will provide the required resilience. 

Your team is looking at you, as their leader, to give them Clarity and Courage under complexity. Trusting the processes and connections while being transparent will allow your team to know what is coming and if they can control it or not. This will define the boundaries of what are you working within.

When your team is experiencing anxiety due to an ever-changing world and the Ambiguity of not knowing what is next, you need to use agility by deciding a path of action and being ready to change it. Simon Sinek defines it as Flex in this book “The Infinite Game”.

Pulling it all together.

The world is changing fast. It is already a very different World when compared with the pre-pandemic times. It is about to change again. After the war, it will be a very different World again. As we fight for peace and economic recovery, reduce energy dependency, and resist the ultimate challenge of our species – Climate Change. VUCA returned and, as managers and leaders, we need to give Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility (VUCA) to our teams so that people can navigate it. So you lead under VUCA with VUCA.

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DISCLAIMER. The views and opinions expressed in this newsletter/blog are those of the author. They are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organisation, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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