It's been more than 30 years since the term VUCA was coined and used by the US Army to encompass conditions characterised by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, & Ambiguity. It is synonymous with fast changing environment, economies, policies and trends in the world. It’s not hard to see why. The world has undergone several sea-changes in the past few decades and dealing with situations like the post-2008 economic downfall, nor the current trade war, isn’t easy.
Evolving technologies and disruptions in the business world are a constant today. Hyper connectivity, multiple and unlimited sources of information and real time communication make the world a very small and connected place. But while Entrepreneurs might feel overwhelmed, I stuck to my ‘6 Cs of Entrepreneurship’ - i.e. Curiosity, Clarity, Commitment, Conviction, Courage & Conquer, to get through my turbulent times.
But, what about leaders of now and tomorrow? Will they be able to deal with changes, keep pace and thrive? As I was writing this, I wanted to articulate some traits or the secret sauce to succeed in the VUCA environment.
Characteristics & Approach
The VOLATILE in VUCA is not going away. Business and competition can be highly disruptive, so one of the things that comes into play to manage Volatility, is COMMITMENT. As markets develop, business models evolve, problems change and technology transforms. As an organisation, we stay committed to our customers. Steadfastly executing and being dependable in the eye of rapid changes. Through this commitment and dependability, we create value for our customers and stakeholders whom we serve. We continue to build and grow as we go.
UNCERTAINTY is the bane of our times. We come to the office and plan 10 things to be accomplished for the day. However, during the day, an urgency occurs, and we drop everything to handle it. These unpredictable issues and escalations can be dealt with effectively with CLARITY. Clarity is something that makes situations lucid, clarity is the prism that shows things transparently and as they are. Clarity of thought can be developed by knowing the objectives and outcomes of any activity or project. Armed with clarity we can conquer any uncertainty.
COMPLEX is the nature of world out there. Economies, businesses, technology and relationships are all fairly complex to navigate. To understand the world better and to be able to solve complex problems, we need wise solutions and these solutions come to us easily when we have CURIOSITY. Complications in work environments can either bring out the best in leaders or challenge them. So which quality can distinguish leaders who manage complexity with ease from those who can't? It’s more than intellect.
In his Harvard Business Review article, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes “Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence.” He says three key psychological qualities enhance our ability to manage complexity:
- Intellect Quotient: mental ability
- Emotional Quotient: this concerns our ability to perceive, control, and express emotions
- Curiosity Quotient: having a hungry mind
AMBIGUOUS can, in my opinion, be the leading cause of derailment for a leader. Many C-level executives say that they have a high degree of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. They embrace ambiguity and the accompanying uncertainty, confidently making decisions which guide the organisation through turbulent times and head towards prosperity. They have these inherent traits which propel them to navigate the unknown with self-assurance. This solid core comes from a place of CONVICTION and COURAGE.
Conviction is your biggest funding round. Leaders who have seen the biggest ups and downs, yet tasted success are the ones who have the conviction of ideas and courage to speak and take action in that direction.
Many high potentials and leaders say that they are OK with ambiguity, they are able to take risks, make the hard decisions that they make — often from incomplete information. It’s a bit like a high-wire act without the safety net.
Knowing Is Winning
Simply executing a project is easier compared to a complete transformation. This is where knowing how to handle critical matters in the best way is crucial. Let’s remember that Curiosity, Clarity, Commitment, Conviction, Courage & Conquer are the Six Cs of Success that can help us as we white-water raft in this VUCA world.