Published 15 September, 2021

Leading Teams in VUCA Environments (7 Mins Read)

In order to operate successfully in the complex and fast moving world the leaders must often feel that they have to run very fast just to exist. New technologies come in and disrupts the markets almost all the time.  New competitors emerge from the unexpected corners every day. Political and economic situations change rapidly, exposing the organizations to an unprecedented level of risk and vulnerability.

We are now actually operating in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment—and it’s quite clear that our comfortable, classic models of leadership don’t work in this fast changing climate. The global leaders now have to be skilled in negotiating their way through 3 key factors which are context, complexity and connectivity.  The challenge for the organizations is to ensure that they are equipping the leaders with these “three Cs,” rather than simply developing them in the same leadership style of the past.

As already mentioned ‘VUCA’ stands for volatileuncertaincomplex, and ambiguous, let’s try to understand a little elaborately about those terms

Volatile: Things changing rapidly, unpredictably, all of a sudden, many a times for the worse.

Uncertain: Important information remains unknown or indefinite, doubtful and unclear about the present situation and the future outcomes and not to be relied upon.

ComplexThere are many parts which are different and inter connected: several key decision factors, emergence, adaptation and interaction between diverse agents.

Ambiguous: This means open to more than one interpretation; the same event can be interpreted in different ways.

Now, let’s look at the skills needed to lead successfully in the VUCA world and how managers can make sure that they develop the resilience in order to keep going when things are constantly changing all around.

Leadership competencies needed for a VUCA environment

  1. Learning agility:

The leaders need the strong will to stretch themselves out of their comfort zones and be open enough to quickly embrace the new concepts and technologies.

  1. Develop a shared purpose:

Leaders need to have the ability to build good teams where employees have a shared purpose and the vision is the key. The leaders should help their people understand the bigger picture and how they fit into it individually and perform accordingly for success.

  1. Self-awareness:

Leaders need to be aware of their own selves. They need to understand their strengths and the areas of opportunities and the impact which their communication and working style has on others.  The ability to be honest and show your true self at work is the key to build trust amongst the team members.

  1. Influence and leading through collaboration:

In today’s world, success depends on working well with people on whom you do not have any official authority.  The leaders need a high-level of influencing skills and the ability to collaborate well with a wide group of stakeholders.

  1. Have the confidence to lead through uncertainty:

The leaders need to have the ability to assess the acceptable levels of risk and make the right decisions based on an incomplete or even conflicting information.  The managers also need the ability to learn from their mistakes and to allow others to do the same and improve on them.

6. Building Resilience:

Surviving and thriving in a VUCA world requires a lot of resilience which the leaders must possess.  Developing the much needed resilience depends on a combination of psychological, physiological and organizational factors.  For instance, the leaders need to pay attention to their physical and mental health, develop confidence in their abilities and willingly ask for the support from their colleagues and team members.


The VUCA environment demands that you avoid the conventional or traditional approaches which are outdated for today’s management and leadership. Those approaches are usually too sluggish and very limited to be effective in such a turbulent environment. Rather, newer, much more agile and pragmatic processes are the key towards managing the business successfully in the VUCA world.  Leaders need to make vision, clarity, understanding and agility the guiding principles to handle the threats posed by VUCA and turn them to an advantage for the organization.




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