Five Tips for Leading Through VUCA

Tue, Dec 02, 2008

VUCAIt's official. The United States is in a recession, and has been for a year, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And for many I have spoken to, this recession feels very different from past ones. I believe that the difference is the level of VUCA, or volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Regular readers of my blog know that I have posted a number of blogs on the topic. Simply put, VUCA is like an E ticket ride at Disneyland , in dense fog, with a stuck stop/start gear.

So how is a business leader to lead? During 2002-2007, I entered a doctoral study program at Fielding Graduate University while also continuing my consulting and coaching practice. During that time, I did in-depth research on leadership and culture in times of crisis. While I can write for days on this topic, and did, and will continue to do so, here are a few findings from my proprietary research.

Leaders who effectively lead through VUCA exhibit the following five characteristics:

1. They are adept at quickly gathering complex information, making sense of it, and determining where to focus resources and where to cut their losses. Some academic writers labeled this strategic capacity as wisdom.

2. They are able to spot trends far in the future, as well as make certain that concrete plans are in place for allocating resources and schedules to ensure short term viability.

3. They are decisive. They make decisions and stick to them.

4. They have the interpersonal capacity to build strong networks, build follower-ship, and make things happen

5. They are able to build organizations that collaborate across functions, demonstrate accountability, and recognize and communicate early warning signs

Executive leaders are responsible for balancing the needs for short-term results with a long-term strategic view for sustainability. Doing this through VUCA is increasingly challenging. Having a team of strong leaders is critical, as well as trusted advisors to validate thinking and guide strategic thinking.

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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