Leadership Skills Needed To Thrive In A VUCA World

VUCA is an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. There can’t be a better example of a VUCA world than the one everyone seems to have grown used to in the past year and a half. The challenges brought up by the pandemic perfectly co-relate with that of a VUCA world. And with these challenges, the need to upgrade existing skills, especially leadership skills, and acquire new ones has become more critical than ever.

In this period, employees’ dependence on their leaders has increased manifolds. Whenever they have found themselves in a challenging situation, they have reached out to their managers to show them the right way. The changes in the business world are occurring at a faster pace than anyone could have ever imagined, especially after the pandemic hit. This is ideal for the best leaders to show their true leadership skills and help their teams and organizations navigate this challenging period with strength, resilience, and resolve.

In addition to the usual leadership qualities, leaders need to possess skills in crisis and disaster management. Communication and leadership skills will help leaders become aware of the extent of the problem and communicate the same to their teams and ensure that everyone has the necessary tools and knowledge to prepare for the situation. These skills will help them understand the repercussions of their actions and what they can do to make things easier for their teams. And this stands true for every leader, no matter how big or small the team they are leading. With decisive leadership, organizations and employees will adapt to the changes in much less time. 

There have been many disruptive situations in the past, and organizations have to deal with one right now. It is imperative for leaders to earn the trust of their teams and guide them and their organizations through these difficult times. During the pandemic, it was easier for leaders who had their teams’ confidence to ask them to accompany them into an uncertain future, work in a completely new environment, adapt to newer technologies, and at the same time, continue to learn new skills to be productive. However, earning the trust of employees is not easy. It takes time to build a healthy relationship with employees. So, it is essential for leaders not to wait for a crisis to start building trust with employees. 

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The first step to becoming a solid leader in a VUCA world is communicating with employees and other stakeholders honestly and regularly. Leaders need to understand that every individual or team that has the slightest of role to play in the growth of an organization needs to know the truth. So, every message that leaders convey needs to be based on facts. Also, they should share a plan that everyone needs to follow in the future but, at the same time, leave room for questions and queries. Leaders need to patiently explain the crisis to all stakeholders and impact them, entertain their inquiries, and lay out a plan. Every leader needs to understand the importance of two-way communication. They can build trust by clearly explaining the problem and showing stakeholders the way to overcome it.

Contrary to popular belief, courage is amongst those qualities that can turn a good leader into a great one. And if there are credibility issues with some leaders, courageous communication and leadership can bail them out of it. Leaders should refrain from playing safe when the situation demands them to be bold and make tough decisions. And even if things aren’t going right, leaders should have the courage to communicate the same to the employees or clients, who will appreciate this honesty in adversity. Even if it comes down to laying off employees, leaders need to make sure that they let their employees know about the situation in advance to start looking out for other opportunities. They can go the extra mile and help their employees, in whatever way they can, in finding new jobs. 

For leaders to do well in a VUCA world, they must work with their teams to evolve and continue performing better no matter the situation. They need to communicate with employees to understand their respective qualities. Based on what they find, they can delegate responsibilities and empower employees to drive change across the organization. What this will also do is make the team capable of dealing with any situation. Employees will be better equipped to take the lead themselves and support others to get out of a challenging situation. The best way to make employees perform at their best is to make them feel valued and believe that they are contributing to the organization’s success. 

During the pandemic, most organizations allowed their employees to work from home. However, some of those organizations had question marks in the reliability of their remote working employees. To monitor their employees, they made use of attendance software and digital check-ins. This caused many employees to question the purpose of putting these systems in place. In a situation where organizations should have trusted their employees, they chose to go the other way. But, many leaders who understood the gravity of the case went ahead and communicated to their teams that they could be flexible with their time. This is what every leader should do in such an uncertain situation. Working from home is a challenge in itself. Leaders need to evoke their generous side and make things easier for their teams in such a situation. 

Leadership skills are not just about knowing and making the most of the available resources. It is as much about understanding different situations and the challenges they bring and then taking steps to do the best for their employees, organization, clients, and other stakeholders. They need to understand that to earn the trust of their employees; they need to trust them first. 


  • How to become a strong leader in the VUCA era | Your Story | Elsa Marie D’ Silva | October 8, 2021
  • Leading in a VUCA World – Changing Conditions and Our Hybrid Work Environment | Sounding Board | June 15, 2021

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