VUCA Revisited –Volatility Rouses Fear

Fri, Feb 18, 2011

Business Worries With Graph resized 600I recently began teaching in the MBA program at Golden Gate University. Being a full time executive leadership consultant and part-time professor forces me to stay current with leadership research and weave that research into a pragmatic solution for clients and business school students.

I have been writing about the concept of VUCA since I began this blog. I was struck by how well VUCA—volatility, uncertainly, complexity, and ambiguity—describes the current business environment.  I have argued that we are living in a time of unprecedented VUCA. I have even done research to identify leadership characteristics necessary to thrive in VUCA.

 Here is a distinction that I believe will be helpful.  Leaders have always had to cope with UCA—uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It has always been challenging to lead a department, division, business unit, or organization. Leaders have always operated with UCA—uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

 What makes VUCA such a useful term today is that we are experiencing unprecedented volatility in our marketplace. While it feels like we are regaining some sense of stability, from what I have read, the underlying problems and goblins are still haunting our financial markets.

 What makes living in a VUCA environment different than a UCA environment is one word—fear. When conditions are volatile, we tend to turn in, become conservative, and avoid risks. Negative emotions like fear restrict creativity, openness, and collaboration.

 Leaders who thrive in VUCA are resilient and are able to remain calm, collected, and inspire confidence in others. Leadership success depends not on what the leader is doing, but who the leader is being during volatile conditions.

Are you a leader who thrives in VUCA?

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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