If you’ve attended a recent leadership event or conference you’ll no doubt have seen a sea of nodding heads when told that; "we live in a ‘VUCA’ World".
Despite sounding like some planet from Star Trek, VUCA is an acronym for environments that are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.
The rationale underpinning this theory is our advancement in globalization and technology has resulted in a difficult space for leaders to plan and operate within. On the surface of it this makes complete sense - You can literally point a finger at anything politically, economically or socially today and say it’s the result of at least one component of VUCA.
But maybe there's a danger in buying into the 'VUCA World' concept.
Firstly, there’s no ‘real’ evidence that we’re experiencing a time that’s more volatile, uncertain, complex or ambiguous than any other in history. This leads to VUCA giving leaders a sort of false comfort that the reason for the issues they experience is the unstoppable force of VUCA - This in-turn leads to inertia to solve the issue or worse still an excuse for any bad decision or failed endeavour made and finally; The VUCA phenomenon can distract Leaders from understanding that they need to develop valuable skills necessary to carry out their roles.
So, when did we all start buying into VUCA?
Apparently VUCA originated in the late 80’s early 90’s as a framework to support senior military officers who needed to give context to crisis environments (war). Management consultants who love aligning military frameworks to business began using this to aid companies in their strategic decisions.
But here’s the thing.....
VUCA's popularity was down to the fact that it pacified a lot of ‘traditional’ leaders who didn't believe they needed to change or develop their skill-set. Instead it provided an explanation as to why leaders didn't innovate quick enough or even keep up with changes in workplace culture. Leaders struggling with change could easily play their 'VUCA' get-out-of-jail card - I mean who on earth could deal with such an unmanageable pace of change?
So is this pace of change true?
The evidence below shows a study that measures what affects US corporations alongside its changed position over 10 years. As you probably gather the graph doesn't support the VUCA World order but rather a usual steady trend of business.
And so, getting quickly to the point ……As a leader it’s important not to get swept up by ideas that suit your own thinking or insecurities. If you feel unprepared and unable to manage then it’s probably because you are - And that’s OK.
The best approach is to accept the position and instead of looking for an external explanation develop your internal self with skills that are as important to leaders today as they were 1000's of years ago - Skills that help you build trust, define purpose, develop resilience and create confidence within your people.
As a Leader ask yourself, when was the last time you invested in yourself to gain any of these skills?
Let’s conclude with this thought - The world has always been a bit VUCA and no doubt will always be a bit VUCA- So why not combat this from within and stop operating without the appropriate leadership skills you and your people deserve.
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