VUCA is a term that is starting to be tossed around with more frequency to describe challenging circumstances. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. There is no question we are in VUCA times, perhaps even double VUCA. However, as Air Force Colonel Will Gunn noted,
“VUCA is where history happens.”
These days, we all have our personal VUCA moments, when our own life becomes volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. A personal crisis hits everyone at some point. The VUCA world is all around us with more or less intensity.
What is the Anti-VUCA?
Clear, calm, consistent communication is the anti-VUCA for any leader. It is an opportunity for innovation. Anti-VUCA rewards authentic executive presence … the ability
to listen well, set clear expectations with a vision for the future, and create clear and concise communication that provides perspective.
Author Bob Johansen said in his book Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present, that if you can keep your wits about you, VUCA could be the opportunity for your finest leadership moment. Here’s how Johansen sees that evolving:
“Volatility yields to Vision. Vision means having a clear intent, a clear direction for your actions. With clear vision, creative space opens for innovation within the parameters that you communicate. A bold vision sees beyond volatility, with a kind of calm perspective that is not trapped by the assumptions of the present.
“Uncertainty yields to Understanding. The VUCA world creates an urgency to act quickly, but sometimes it is a false sense of urgency. In the face of uncertainty, listening and understanding can help leaders discover new ways of thinking and acting. Listening leads to understanding, which is the basis for trust. In order to understand, you must learn to listen carefully without judging too soon. The best leaders have the presence and calm to listen before talking, to open an opportunity for deep understanding. Understanding is a prerequisite to trust, and trust is vital to rebuilding organizations.
“Complexity yields to Clarity. Leaders must help others make sense out of complexity. Clarity is usually possible, even when there is no control. The VUCA world rewards clarity because people are so confused that they grasp at anything that helps them make sense out of the chaos. The thoughtful leader’s quest is to be both clear and accurate, simple, but not simplistic.
“Ambiguity yields to Agility. In an ambiguous world, leaders must be ready for surprises. Leaders can’t surrender to ambiguity—that would lead to paralysis and confusion. Rather, leaders must learn how to be agile and responsive to attack. The VUCA world rewards networks because they are agile, while it punishes the rigidity and brittleness of hierarchies.”
Leaders have the greatest opportunity and the greatest risk in a VUCA world. The power of fear is that it feels like it will last forever. It never does. Leaders who demonstrate a clear command of the room allow others to overcome fear and be more calm and thoughtful about finding the opportunities. Leaders help others find a way to master the changes that the VUCA world requires. Building on the authentic executive presence attributes of CLEARLI (Command, Leverage, Expectations, Audience Connection, Relationships, Listening and Inspiration) creates the leadership communication that is the Anti-VUCA.