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Tim Taylor

Making Great Leaders

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It’s a VUCA world – What are you doing about it?

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 When I talk to managers and leaders they still hanker after a world where everything is more stable, where calmness is the order of the day and things are back to "normal". I look them straight in the eye and I ask, "Do you realise this is only wishful thinking and it is clouding your ability to deal with the future?"  They invariable look back with a surprised smile ans say nothing.  Then I ask them - What will the future demand of you in order for you and your management team to be successful?

 

At this point I introduce them to the idea that the future is not as far ahead as they may think.

We all are experiencing change driven by technology.  Moore’s law and the rewiring of human brains, caused by how we interact in this very digital world, means that change is becoming and ever increasingly INTEGRATED problem.  Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) describes the exciting challenges for leaders in his new book Leaders Make the Future (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc).

In Bob’s view we are in a time of accelerating disrupted change. He talks about a VUCA world, a phrase he borrowed from the US military meaning:

  • Volatility
  • Uncertainty
  • Complexity
  • Ambiguity

In this VUCA world traditional leadership skills won’t be enough and those that still rely heavily on management skills will simply be left far behind.

Most managers we talk to are still so wedded to the idea that they can control what is happening,  sure that would be true if stability was a reality; but who among us works in an environment where time has stopped, where there are long periods without change, where everyone around them seems to have established concrete foundations.

This is a pipe dream.  You may be thinking that pipe dreams are harmless distractions and therefore shouldn’t pose a threat to your business In-fact this particular pipe dream is very dangerous indeed.  Think of examples where you have been working with managers during a re-org or a merger and they tell you that they are waiting for things to settle before they get on with their important projects. The idea that stability is just around the corner stops managers from taking action. It prevents them from acknowledging the reality of their situation and stops them developing effective strategies.  They miss opportunities to engage the competition, they dismiss trends as blips, and they tune out feedback coming from their team.  As for the feedback that floods in from unexpected sources it is rendered invisible.

Bob Johansen has identified ten skills that will become valuable for all future leaders.  These can grouped around 4 themes that will help future leaders deal with the VUCA world. 

  • Volatility yields to Vision.
  • Uncertainty yields to Understanding.
  • Complexity yields to Clarity and
  • Ambiguity yields to Agility.

Developing leaders need to acknowledge the VUCA world as the environment and begin to develop fast paced leadership skills in order that they can lead their teams to sustained success.

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Tim Taylor

Founder

Read more from Tim Taylor
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