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Lead Successfully in a VUCA World

Over the years, VUCA has grown in popularity in describing the various dimensions of uncertainties in business environment. The acronym VUCA was first known in 1987 to reflect on the uncertainty, dynamism, turbulence, disruption, complexity, and ambiguity of the general conditions and situations in the market. Academic literature refers VUCA to as a frustrating inability to understand or to deal with the ever-changing business world.

VUCA refers to volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. It provides a framework for analyzing strategies and leadership in a rapidly changing world. Many organisations use VUCA to describe the energetic business environment and the skills required to lead through VUCA.


It refers to the rate of change in an organization, market, or business environment locally or worldwide— greater volatility results in a faster change in the business world. The economic downturn, supply chain, commodity pricing, and government regulations are some examples of factors contributing to volatility. Changes, large or small, are becoming increasingly unpredictable; and the rate at which they occur is increasing. As a result, leaders must be prepared to respond to ongoing challenges as soon as they occur.


Uncertainty infers lack of predictability. It is becoming more difficult for leaders to anticipate changes as past experiences, including historical data, lose their relevance in predicting what is going to happen. This calls for a leader to respond quickly and develop strategies to meet the needs of uncertain environment. Authentic uncertain environment are situations in which no prediction can be made, even on a statistical basis. The more the world becomes uncertain, the harder it is for a leader to make any meaningful projection.


There is no simplicity in the complexities of business (Bellwether Community Credit Union, n.d.). The more factors there are, the more diversified they become, and the more complex an environment will be. It has become more difficult to comprehensively analyse the environment and reach any reasonable conclusion due to its high complexity—the more complicated it is, the harder it is to analyse (Kraaijenbrink, 2018).


You are facing unclear paths as it is an unfamiliar territory beyond your comfort zone. When information is incomplete, contradictory, or too inaccurate to draw any clear conclusion, the situation becomes ambiguous. The more ambiguous the world gets, the harder it is to interpret; there is no best practice in coping with leaders' and organisations' challenges.

The four terms in VUCA, are interconnected. It is especially so when an industry becomes more complex and volatile, thus leading to more uncertainties. Visualizing these four elements helps to clarify their distinct nature of complexity.

VUCA leadership is the ability to shift and respond to changes in the business environment with focused, quick, and agile actions. Today's role of leadership is to provide clarity in uncertain times. Today's leaders must thrive in the face of ambiguity as there is no job description or rules to follow in dealing with it. Essential leadership skills and behaviours help you, and your team navigate and thrive in the VUCA world (Bennett, 2021).

Skills for Leading Through VUCA

Visioning and Preparing for Change

Having a shared vision and purpose will let your team see the bigger picture. It acts as a guide through the constant changes. Incorporate the monitoring and tracking of the business environment into your function. Analyse market trends and competitors' movements to identify patterns and variables that may affect your team. These provide an early caution to any impending change. So, begin to anticipate and prepare for changes.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Adaptability and flexibility are ideal leadership traits, especially in times of uncertainties and changes. VUCA leadership does not confine only to his annual plan. Developing the abilities to bend, revolve, and adept as new information is obtained, new decisions are made, or when new opportunities emerge - this is the best practice of VUCA leadership.

Bias In Decision Making and Action

A bias for action is essential in VUCA leadership. One must be able to make decisions even with incomplete information. Take actions as leaders even when they cannot fully comprehend the complexity and interconnectedness of the decisions or when they cannot rely on previous data. Moreover, leaders must accept that they operate in an imperfect environment, and actions should be made for their projects, teams, and organisations.

Encouraging Collaboration and Teamwork

Everyone in an organization needs to be motivated to find fresh ideas and solutions to adjust to the changing reality quickly. Leaders must engage in innovative thinking and accept diversity of ideas or inputs from all functions and levels of the organisation. Since there is no best practice in leading through VUCA, a leader must facilitate employee collaboration.

Customer-Centric Focus

Having a customer-centric focus on how external forces will impact the customer experience is at the forefront of decisions. Robust processes, common standards, and precise working methods are required throughout the organization. The ultimate goal of all of this is to captivate the customer’s interest consistently. Hence, leaders must always focus on the customers’ needs while understanding the impact their decisions can have on the customer.

VUCA Leadership Training

What can you do to improve your leadership skills in order to succeed in a VUCA world? (Bennett, 2021) Firstly, assess your readiness to lead through uncertainties. You can then identify the gaps and uncover what you need to learn and practice. Secondly, look for a VUCA leadership development program available in your region. Being VUCA-equipped will help you accelerate the development of your leadership skills so that you will be prepared to take on the next challenge (Bennett, 2021).

Final Thoughts

The true test of VUCA team leadership is how to anticipate and respond to impending changes. The future is full of opportunities and yet pitfalls. We must therefore be prepared early (Bennett, 2021).

Looking to acquire skills to better manage people in times of constant change ?


Bellwether Community Credit Union. (n.d.). Northeast Planning | BCCU.

Bennett, M. (2021, July 23). What Is VUCA Leadership? 6 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success. Niagara Institute.

Kraaijenbrink, J. (2018, December 19). What Does VUCA Really Mean? Forbes.


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