VUCA: Time to wake up and smell the coffee, leaders!

For me, learning about the concept VUCA was quite humorous as the acronym reminds me of vuka; the Zulu term for wake up or get up which may be paradoxical to what the acronym stands for, but somewhat resonates with the theory behind it.

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. The concept derived from students at the U.S. Army War College as a means to describe the world after the Cold War, symbolizing the unpredictability and rapid change of the world that is out of one’s control. The concept has now gained purpose in leadership and is quite relevant in our current world 

Let’s break down the concept briefly:

V– Volatility: Change is rapid and inevitable.

U– Uncertainty: The future is unpredictable.

C– Complexity: Many situations may be happening at the same time.

A– Ambiguity: Lack of clarity leads to not knowing the root cause of a situation.

Working in a VUCA environment makes it difficult to prepare for the future as well as prohibits one’s ability to lead efficiently. Vuka Leaders! Use this concept to your advantage by learning how to cope with these four things.

Firstly, you need to accept and embrace change. Through embracing change, you are able to create vision – this way your team will be able to adapt quickly and efficiently.

Secondly, understand. As mentioned, the future is unpredictable, and understanding this uncertainty will ensure that you can, to your capacity, learn to prepare for what’s ahead. What I mean by this, is to ask the “what” questions: what are my competitors doing?, what is new in the industry?, what can I/ we do to appeal to the new market?, etc. This way, you can take advantage of new opportunities and positively change uncertainty to anticipation.

Thirdly, clarity. You know the saying: “communication is key”? Well, so is comprehension. Be clear when communicating with your team and clients. Encourage the essence of asking questions, teamwork and collaboration. Not only will this lead to a transparent work environment, but it will motivate your people to work together on complex problems.

And lastly, agility. Again, be adaptable despite not knowing what’s ahead. Develop your team by encouraging them to learn new skills and be open to creativity and debate. A good leader leaves no-one behind as each team member has something to contribute.

Simply managing people is laziness. Take this from me. I’ve been a Human Resource Executive for 20+ years and I aim to find new ways to transform leadership especially whilst the fourth industrial revolution is amongst us. We need to stop managing people and start leading. With leadership, comes positive thinking hence why making VUCA your focus and using it to your advantage, will enable you to be the best leader you can be. So, with that being said, get up and start leading!

The aim is to find new innovative, positive, mindfulness-based and resourceful ways to transform leadership especially whilst the 4IR is upon us and technology trends moving at a fast pace in the global world.


Vuka uZenzele!