How to lead in a VUCA world?

The first time I heard of it, I thought how much it rhymed with a certain word that many (mainly right-wing) politicians may have emitted during the last 48 hours…

It stands for Vulnerable, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous – an acronym that uncannily describes the external environment in which UK leaders are, more than ever before, now operating in.

Why write about it?
Why write this blog? The extent of vulnerability; uncertainty and complexity is obvious and obviously incredibly difficult. We suggest Leaders will benefit from support on the best approaches to take in these changing times. You’ll be looking for new ways to manage in the short and long term.

Talking of change – many of you are likely to still be in the initial stages of shock and denial which Dr Elizbeth’s Kubler Ross’s change’s curve theory describes as a typical response.


Caution. This theory was originally based on research on reactions from terminally ill patients. Ross later claimed that it applies to change reactions to any life changing situation. By the 1980s it was commonly related to organisational change.

Some of you will have reached the later stages of the change curve already, making decisions about the way forward, being naturally early adopters – either way, a snappy analysis of VUCA remains worthy of reflection.

How to lead during times dominated by VUCA?
We all now need a strategy for leadership in an uncertain world. VUCA’s school of thought focuses on the characteristics and strategies that will help leaders stay strong in today’s circumstances. What is required of today’s leaders is to have a strong vision that is upheld regardless of the extent of external uncertainties. I’d argue that knowing and being very clear on your values as a company is also key – these are the staples that must not change in order to carry yourselves through change with credible consistency.

Leaders must have an in depth understanding of their organisations’ capabilities. Trusting; being trusted and knowing your key people is paramount at this point, to act fast you’ll need to be able to reach out and delegate without hesitation. You’ll need to be honest about your failings. Both you, your people and your systems must be adaptable and agile in order to be able to take advantage of opportunities that arise out of change.

Above all, today’s leaders need to have courage! Boldness will overcome.

So how do we combine Boldness with Skills?
A key aspect of leading boldly in a VUCA world lies in the leader’s ability to encourage the development and effective use of both learned and innate skills. The trust in allowing ourselves and others to combine innate with acquired skills could pose the biggest challenge.

Today’s Boardrooms don’t necessarily do so-called soft skills very well. Understandably so, as we need a tangible measure for what works so we can allocate the required resource/budget to it.

To address VUCA in this context, leaders must watch and learn from innovative leaders. Most will certainly tell you they use an element of their innate abilities in making key decisions.

So leaders, let’s embrace VUCA with boldness. The success of our change management efforts and the overall competitive edge of our companies rests on VUCA!

Want to learn more or review your Learning & Development strategy in alignment with VUCA, contact us at
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About the Authors:
Rachel Puttick is a skilled learning and development professional of 22 years; specialising in team building and leadership and people skills training. Rachel supports teams to flourish; her practical approach is focussed on learning transfer, so teams use their learning to solve problems that impact the bottom line back at work. Warning. Her boundless enthusiasm for learning is contagious.

Maggie Sarfo is a passionate author, advisor and mentor for ambitious business executives, entrepreneurs and professionals looking to explode sales revenue, create new markets or access their highest potential. Her blog is her playground, where she explores the topics of business growth, personal growth and peak performance. Download Your Free eBook – Evolution of the Buyer.