We’re living in VUCA times. VUCA is military term that describes the challenging leadership context of today. The term VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. This is a helpful way to make sense of and understand the leadership context of the 21st century. The challenge is that leading in a VUCA world requires a new way of thinking and a whole new set of skills.
General George Casey, 36th U.S. Army Chief of Staff and former Commanding General of the Multinational Force in Iraq, knows all about leading in a VUCA world. The General recently shared his experiences in the Fortune article Leading in a ‘VUCA’ world here are some of the lessons he learnt.
1. Develop a Clear Vision
The challenge of leading in a VUCA world lies in making sense of the situation and in developing a clear way forward.
The best leaders help their organisation and teams deal with the challenges posed by a VUCA world. Great leaders have always made sense of the leadership context.
In response to the overwhelming challenges presented by a VUCA world effective leaders articulate a clear and compelling vision of the future. A vision that inspires people at all levels of the organisation to become engaged in creating that future vision.
Vision is a powerful force. Vision provides the confidence and motivation to act. Clear vision help others act in spite of the the anxiety posed by a VUCA situation.
In VUCA times vision is the leaders first and most urgent priority. The clearer the vision the more leaders are able to inspire and encourage action. So it should not be surprising that General George Casey’s number 1 question in a VUCA situation is:
“What are we really trying to accomplish?”
The more clearly a leader can answer this question the better equipped team and organisation is to execute.
Without a shared vision and common purpose execution quickly breaks down and fails.
2. Take Action
The nature of a VUCA environment makes it difficult to take action. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous situations cause people to become mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. It soon becomes difficult to see throughout the fog and to take action. In military circles tis is know as the fog of war.
As General George Casey points out in his article, VUCA situations cause people to be “befuddled by the turmoil and don’t act”. The biggest threat is the lack of action. The job of the leader is to make sense of the situation, develop a clear vision and then help others take action.
Often leaders want people to execute, take action and get things done. Sadly too few leaders are investing the time necessary to provide their organisations with a clear and compelling vision!
- Where do you stand?
- Is your vision clear?
- Does it help others act?