How to Deal with the Leadership Shift

Businesses are under increasing stress as markets are increasingly volatile, clients are more demanding, talent is scarcer and change occurs in faster and shorter cycles.

To survive and thrive business leaders have to make faster decisions, on less information, and which have greater risk. This has led to a change in how leaders need to think, decide and execute.

A good model, that addresses the four areas of concern that business leaders need to deal with, is the VUCA model (developed in the US Army War College). This consists of:

1. Volatility – the rate, amount, and magnitude of change
Drastic, rapid shifts can bring about instability for organizations and leaders, but even the minor or innocuous shifts that occur daily, such as new and “immediate” priorities that disrupt plans, or the increasing need to “multi-task,” are changes that increase volatility.

2. Uncertainty – the amount of unpredictability inherent in issues and events
Leaders can’t predict because they lack clarity about the challenges and their current and future outcomes. Uncertainty can result in an over-reliance on past experiences and yesterday’s solutions or to analysis paralysis as we sift through more and more data.

3. Complexity – the amount of dependency and interactive effect of multiple factors and drivers
Complex interactivity requires leaders to think in more creative, innovative and non-linear way; to be able to deal with shades of gray (as opposed to black and white) solutions.

4. Ambiguity – the degree to which information, situations, and events can be interpreted in multiple ways
Ambiguity increases doubt, slows decision-making, and results in missed opportunities (and threats). It requires that leaders think through and diagnose things from multiple perspectives.

The Challenge for Leaders

For leaders the challenge is not just a leadership challenge (what good leadership looks like), but it is a development challenge (the process of how to grow “bigger” minds) to deal with the world of VUCA. Leaders, too often, have become experts on the “what” of leadership, but novices in the “how” of their own development.

So What Can You Do as a Leader?

  1. Change the Leadership Mindset – successful tactical leaders can easily get trapped by their predictive mindset when they encounter a VUCA situation. Your coach can provide a robust sounding board, challenge your assumptions and beliefs, and help develop new perspectives, options and ideas.
  2. Change the Leadership Approach – many leadership issues are not problems to be solved but rather dilemmas that must be continuously managed. Your coach can help you to understand this, and to manage the issues and create opportunities from this is key.
  3. VUCA is a neutral force in the world – leaders often look at Volatility, Uncertainty, Change and Ambiguity as a negative force that they need to react to. Your coach can help you to see the potential and to transform it proactively and find the opportunity within.
  4. Leaders Don’t Execute, leaders execute – Leaders too often get involved in driving the efforts themselves. The key is to think more strategically and to unlock the potential of your people so you can develop leaders at lower levels who can do the work where it needs to be done.

Andrew Cooke is a Director of Growth & Profit Solutions Pty Ltd (“GPS”). He coaches clients through each stage of their business life cycle. His expertise in business facilitation assists businesses is in developing and implementing the necessary action plans to allow them to unlock the potential in their business. For more information visit http://www.business-gps.com.au

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