Since the end of the industrial age, our lives (personal and professional) have been getting more complex. This isn’t to say that things are getting more difficult, it’s that their form has become less static, less predictable – you will no doubt have heard of this explained as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), a term that emerged in the late 80s.
The factors in VUCA all point towards an emptiness, or absence, in modern life. Volatility is the absence of stability, uncertainty for certainty, complexity for simplicity and ambiguity for clarity.
Consistency is a bedrock for good leadership, and, perhaps paradoxically, leadership also needs to be dynamic. We cannot always know what’s going to happen, so instead, we must prepare ourselves to adapt and cope with what does happen.
The Virus Changes Everything
While many of us have adopted VUCA ideas into our leadership style, often it is applied to things that can seem big - missed shipments, short staffing or a host of other company-based problems, that are more inconvenient than truly perilous. These challenges now pale into insignificance as every business has to adapt and survive the COVID-19 pandemic that is engulfing the world.
As different modes of transport have seen greater restrictions, supply lines and stocks for businesses have experienced volatility. Leaders at businesses as diverse as supermarkets, industrial cleaners and hospitality, are all having to make tight choices around what they buy and how to utilise it within the business. Those that oversee customer-facing businesses have the additional challenge of deciding how to implement social distancing without alienating their customers.
Wherever the virus has landed it has brought uncertainty with it and for business, uncertainty on this scale can be disastrous. Businesses that survive on customer interaction such as hotels or restaurants have mostly closed with staff either furloughed or dismissed. These challenges, brought about not by a faltering business necessarily, instead through factors far beyond our control, causes heartfelt misery and total uncertainty.
This is where, as leaders, we need to employ our dynamism, dancing in the moment of challenge – reinvent our business: offer take away services if we are restaurateurs, alter our content to deliver virtual offerings if we are usually in a training room, set up online sales, engage with technology differently and most importantly, give consideration to how this might play out in the future, what will be different, what do we want to be different? How might we reshape our business, our offer, the way we interact with our clients and customers.
And, if we’ve had to let people go – support them, fully and completely to find alternative employment through every available means.
Filling the Absence
Living through the most extreme of VUCA times provides an elevated challenge to us as leaders. The small gaps and uncertainties have exploded on a scale nearing incomprehension. We must protect people through our actions and protect our businesses through well-made decisions.
As leaders, we face challenges now that will have ramifications long after the lockdowns and stock shortages. The decisions we make now will last, so we must make the best ones possible, to protect the people around us, our businesses and ourselves.
If you’d like to know more please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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