#1 Survival Skill For Leaders In A VUCA World

Do you understand what a VUCA world is?

We can thank the U.S. Army War College for creating this acronym back in the late 1990s. It was used to describe the world conditions at the time, which continue today and have also emerged in the business context.

VUCA stands for an environment that is  Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

These descriptors define an environment that:

  • Changes quickly and frequently
  • Lacks predictability
  • Encompasses a variety of issues, which may conflict and confound
  • Lacks clarity in determining the best solution, (i.e., there may be many ways to interpret a situation)

Does that sound familiar? You are most likely working in a VUCA environment and now you know is has a name! … or at least an acronym.

Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, stated, “We are in a new world, using old tools”. So what is a leader to do?

Unlearn, Learn and Relearn!

In case you missed it, the key word here is LEARN. I’ve blogged about being a life-long learner in the past, but a leadership competency, Learning Agility, is more important now than ever.

Learning Agility is about figuring out what to do when you don’t know what to do! … and figuring it out with speed – that’s where the “agility” piece fits in.

It’s not just doing the same thing you did in the past. It’s about taking lessons learned from the past and applying them in a NEW situation.

You know it when you see it and here’s how it shows up:

  • The leader who seems to enjoy complexity, is a critical thinker in examining problems and can make fresh connections to derive creative solutions.
  • The leader who is energized by change, is curious and likes to experiment with new ideas/solutions.
  • The leader who is self-aware, knows how to leverage her strenths as well as the strengths of others and is able to connect and work with a variety of people…even in tough situations.
  • The leader who gets results, even in if it’s the first time in a given situation. This typically happens due to their ability to inspire others through confidence in themselves and their teams.

If you don’t see yourself in these descriptors, it’s possible to develop Learning Agility. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make a commitment to learning.
  2. Look for challenging situations that put you out of your comfort zone.
  3. Actively seek feedback and input from others – how are you perceived?…what can you do differently?
  4. Be willing to take the heat when things don’t work out as you hoped.

So are you up for the challenge? Let’s face it – the VUCA World is here to stay so buckle in and enjoy the ride!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@www.people-results.com.