For a conversation about leadership skills required in the VUCA world, a few comments about what this acronym VUCA means:
When the Soviet Union fell, this acronym surfaced from the military to describe the new geo-political terrain: VUCA, which stands for “volatile,” “uncertain,” “complex” and “ambiguous.” It has been in the business lexicon long enough now to have become commonplace, and as the world does seem to be growing increasingly VUCA, it may be more on our minds than ever before.
In light of this, this article is a discussion of optimal ways for leaders to respond to this emergent paradigm… and the word “respond” is very important here. As contrasted with “react.”
Here are a few leadership skills that will support an effective company response to our VUCA world, and also prepare your team for identifying and making the most of any opportunities that appear.
Keep in mind that this article is not meant to be some definitive statement of ALL leadership skills required in a VUCA world, but rather to suggest a few that may help you get the most from your greatest resource – your people.
The current environment no longer favors rule by mandate, but increasingly favors collaborative leadership. This is why as a leader, strong facilitation skills are needed to gather people together, frame the challenges at hand, and bring the diverse voices of all your workforce to the table.
A facilitator does not need to know all the answers in advance, but to skillfully ask questions, elicit ideas and participation, and establish the parameters of all group activities.
Of all the aforementioned, the leader’s first task as facilitator is to bring people together to establish bonds of openness and trust, and collaborate with each other on articulating a shared vision for the company.
Deep Listening Skills
Much has been written about the importance of EQ and soft skills to the success of a leader. As EQ and “soft skills” can be vague topics, we believe that the ability to listen deeply is central to both of those aforementioned categories. Why is this so? Because when we interact with someone, there is at least as much non-verbal communication occurring at the same time as verbal communication.
Deep listening is a subject that emerged some years ago from the Human Potential movement, and is now becoming part of the soft skills training & development lexicon.
What is it, exactly? In general terms, deep listening means listening to someone in an open and receptive manner, refraining from internal judgement or commentary, so that we can perceive what a person is communicating to us non-verbally, as they talk.
There are four levels of meaning available to the practitioner of deep listening:
Level One: the content of what the person is saying.
Level Two: the tone of what they are saying.
Level Three: the vibe or feeling of the person as they say it.
Level Four: the underlying meaning of the whole exchange, given the time, place, and circumstance.
Deep listening can create deeper relationships among people, and can provide greater insight and information – all of which are crucial to resilience and success in a VUCA world.
While authenticity is a quality, we list it here as a leadership skill because it is something we can develop – and would be well-served to develop.
Authenticity is an indication of a mature, self-aware person. The presence of authenticity in someone’s behavior and demeanor also predicts other qualities related to high performance leadership – such as humility, self-awareness, and flexibility.
Here’s an example of how an authentic person may behave:
Something goes wrong, or a setback occurs. While it is natural for most people to react with upset or anxiety, an authentic person may react to a perceived challenge with curiosity or surprise. Instead of reacting with an emotional outburst, they might ask a question like: “okay, that happened – what do we do now?”
Authentic leaders inspire respect and loyalty from their people, and help keep a group of people motivated and aligned during times of challenge.
As a leader, serving as coach to your direct reports is an excellent opportunity to tighten interpersonal bonds, develop the people below you into leaders, and use challenges as opportunities to delegate and develop your people into better contributors.
The how of coaching is as important, if not more so, than what you are coaching. For example, effective leader-coaches do not micromanage, but empower the people to run with responsibility for particular projects and activities, leaning back to serve as accountability partners and advocates for each person as they take on new experiences and develop new skills.
We’ve proposed in this article that the best way of responding to a VUCA world is by engaging and mobilizing your people for aligned collaboration around a common vision, and fostering individual growth and empowerment through coaching and measured delegation of responsibility. We at Hallett Leadership are on hand to discuss how this may be accomplished at your company, given your industry and present circumstances.