How to “VUCA Proof” Your Leadership

Three years ago I created the VUCA Proof Leader© program to help leaders who were struggling in an environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). The concepts emerged from my personal experiences in leading through VUCA, as well as from research on the topic. Fundamental to my approach is that leaders should learn to transition from a traditional Heroic Leadership Style to what I’ve coined as a more “VUCA Proof” Style. This means finding your passionbeing bolder, and practicing greater mindfulness. I also provided a pathway for leaders that included getting AlignedActivated, and Attuned.

Truth be told, while it is a solid model…there is now room for improvement.

The one constant in a VUCA world is change. So, why would a leadership theory designed to meet that environment be any different? Here are just a few things that changed since I first introduced the VUCA Proof Leader©:

  • We experienced a digital transformation as technology enabled a productive remote workforce. Leading remote teams meant we had to coordinate, communicate, and collaborate differently.
  •  Flexibility and resiliency became paramount skills as we struggled with endless work hours, no vacation, and constant overwhelm at home due to quarantine.
  • Some industries like hospitality and tourism disappeared overnight. Businesses innovated to meet the new demands of a global pandemic. Companies like Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna delivered a vaccine in record time!
  • Social and political quarrels greatly disrupted society. Many companies embraced strategies of greater corporate responsibility and social activism to meet the times. Yet, long-term strategic vision beyond the next quarter seems impossible in this unpredictable world.
  • You probably ran out of toilet paper.

If 2020 taught us anything is that VUCA is accelerating at a pace that no one could have predicted. That’s why “VUCA Proofing” your leadership style is now no longer an option…it’s imperative.

My approach to helping leaders to VUCA Proof© themselves has also changed. I wanted to make it more accessible and tangible, less about theory and more about concrete actions that we all can practice. I also wanted to integrate the latest research on VUCA and make it more relevant. Finally, I wanted to bring the most recent best practices in leader development into the mix.

This is the result.

I still believe leadership exists to disrupt one’s environment for the better. In this regard, my purpose of leadership remains to extinguish the status quo, envision a superior outcome, and align actions towards producing new results.

I also fundamentally still believe that the majority of managers today overly rely on their power and authority and default to a Heroic Leadership Style. This causes them to lose influence and makes leading change in a VUCA world very difficult.

If leaders are going to disrupt compassionately, what’s needed today is more vision, understanding, clarity, and agility (1).

Within each of these components, I’ve identified four key actions we can practice to improve. While balancing boldness with mindfulness is still core to effectiveness, I’ve added more specific actions like practicing a Growth Mindset and using Commander’s Intent to inspire more initiative.

Finally, the sixteen actions work together to produce direction, insight, innovation, and ultimately growth.

In the coming months, I’ll be expanding on how you can implement this framework to VUCA Proof© your own leadership style. If you want to learn more click the “follow” button above so you can receive future posts. Or, connect with David at dspungin@leadergrowthgroup.com to learn more about the VUCA Proof© Leader training events.

David Spungin designs/facilitates leadership programs for Fortune 500 organizations and is a coach to senior-level executives. As the Founder & Principal Consultant at The Leader Growth Group, he’s helped over 4000 leaders to inspire more engaged and productive workplaces. Get a copy of his book, “Growing Leaders: 20 Articles to Challenge, Inspire, and Amplify Your Leadership” by clicking here.

*All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, and all other use of any and all this content is prohibited without the authorized consent of the author.

(1) CODREANU, A. (2016). A VUCA ACTION FRAMEWORK FOR A VUCA ENVIRONMENT. LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS. Journal of Defense Resources Management, 7(2), 13th ser.

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