Over the last 10 years, companies have encountered varying degrees of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). We’ve grappled with the fallout from the credit crunch, disruptive changes in technology, tighter regulation, Brexit tension, Trump tweets and now, of course, the coronavirus. All this VUCA makes life challenging. The pace of change is ever-increasing and it can be hard to stay on top of it all (and keep going with business as usual). But the best leaders have morphed their leadership styles to accommodate because VUCA is sticking around.
VUCA is a term that was first used by the US Army War College during the Cold War – so it’s kind of appropriate that Splash Projects (run by ex-British Forces well versed in leading programmes across the globe) are second to none when it comes to equipping participants in dealing with VUCA. So, here are our top tips for leading in a VUCA world:
- Collaborative leadership – your staff cooperate and engage willingly. You influence and inspire them rather than dictate. You create an environment in which staff can grow and realise their full potential, creating a positive, energising work culture. Your employees see each other as friends rather than competitors. You bring them on your journey and they understand (and aren’t fazed) when it’s necessary to change course.
- Trusting leadership – you’ve surrounded yourself with great people – so let them get on with it. Your staff self-motivate each other. And they self-organise themselves so that they can adapt and react to each new situation. They are stretched by being empowered and delegated to (within specified parameters). You support your staff, but only when they really need it. All great work is recognised and acknowledged on time. (And although you’ve let go of the proverbial reins – possibly more than is comfortable – you still know everything that’s going on!)
- Agile leadership – you encourage your staff to weigh up all the tensions (tactical vs. strategic, pragmatic vs. idealistic, local vs. global, etc.) to derive the best possible solution each time. Efficiency, creativity and innovation are rewarded. Changing strategic course is fine and failure becomes a springboard to resilience and future success.
At Splash Projects, we can include various VUCA challenges as part of the design of our experiential learning programmes – giving teams and individuals the opportunity to really push past their perceived limits. For example, half way through a project the charity may request a design change or ask for additional elements while the deadline remains the same; or there could be a problem with the materials demanding a rethink; or there may be a resourcing issue that forces a restructure. All our VUCA scenarios are taken straight out of real life – and learning how to handle VUCA whilst under pressure is important to team and individual success. (It’s been incredibly interesting seeing how the various captains of industry we work with cope with VUCA challenges.)