VUCA is Both a Challenge and Solution

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VUCA is an acronym developed at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA to describe the world leaders today face, one full of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. (Since 9/11, the University has often been referred to as “VUCA University”.) The issue for today’s leaders, and those being trained to address the challenges in coming years, is how to address the conditions which make decision-making so much more difficult.

In Leaders Make the Future, Bob Johansen, uses the forward-thinking acronym to focus on key principles leaders should use to address the each of these four challenges: Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility. As I review the presentation I will be presenting on Next gen Leaders, I thought I’d share exactly what he means by these four key principles:

Vision – to provide stakeholders with a compelling sense of the future they want to create with focus and grounding

Understanding – to address the uncertainty, leaders should immerse themselves in the world they are serving by listening to stakeholders, especially cross-cultural customers.

Clarity – to separate the “signal” from the “noise” and provide stakeholders with information in a manner that is trustworthy and accurate, it’s important that it be clear, simple and compelling.

Agility – to stay flexible and make the decisions that will keep the company on target with the strategy, mission and vision, yet enable navigation around any unexpected obstacles.

Using these principles, leaders should develop these skills for effectiveness:

  • Be authentic and transparent to serve as an effective role model
  • Cultivate the “maker instinct” (the inner drive to build and grow) to create ongoing cycle of projects
  • Develop your ability to see through messes and contradictions so you can focus people on strategy
  • Turn dilemmas into advantages and opportunities (unlike problems which have solutions)
  • Immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments in order to learn from them
  • Calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication breaks down
  • Facilitate employees’ ability to engage in purposeful activities through groups and networks that nurture one another and enable then to increasingly work at higher levels of performance and results.

How are you using these principles to run your company? Are you developing these leadership skills with your current and NextGen leaders?   Share with us your experiences.