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Leadership in VUCA

Everything changes and nothing stands still - significance/impact
VUCA world
VUCA in the frame of leadership and digital transformation

The acronym VUCA, which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, describes the geopolitical, economic, social, and environmental reality in which organizations find themselves. This means that the environment in which organizations find themselves can change rapidly and it is a constant challenge for management, executives and employees to deal with these variables and successfully align the organization with them.

People determine the success of an organization

Since the framework conditions can change constantly, such as through the digital transformation, the question arises as to what knowledge, qualifications, competencies, and skills are required in order to get the best out of individuals under these circumstances. How to motivate them and to awaken the willingness to grow beyond themselves and to be able to deal with the increasing pressure.


If, for example, organizations decide to use methods or procedures such as the Human Centered Design, Design Thinking, or Co-Creation, to deal with the VUCA reality, it is important not to forget whether employees and leaders and managers are ready for such approaches and procedures.


  • Are teams formed in a complementary way, so that each member's strengths, abilities, desires, and personality traits have been and are recognized and promoted in order to be able to solve requirements in a holistic way?

  • Are the team members selected in such a way that the aspects listed above serve as a supplement in the team and the same aspects are not covered more than once?

  • Are organizations looking for unanimity based on homogeneity or constructive cooperation based on heterogeneity?


The most effective form of organizational development is that which is actively and responsibly shaped by those involved, e.g., those affected become those involved.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Leaders decide in a significant way which framework conditions are found in teams and organizations. If hierarchy and the claim to power are lived, it will be difficult for an organization to become agile, no matter which methods or strategies are applied.

Although already outdated, the expression "Culture eats strategy for breakfast" by Peter Drucker seems more than ever to be a success factor.

In order to be able to deal with the growing demands of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), a new understanding of leadership and management is needed.


Not everything learned so far is invalid and unusable

In some cases, existing skills only need to be put together or enriched in a different way. The attitude thus developed implies that leaders and managers are successful when they can draw on the following skills (in alphabetical order):

  • Accelerate (forms of cooperation, processes...)

  • Agile (diversity of methods and conscious use of resources and priorities...)

  • Allocate (sharing knowledge, experience, responsibility, skills, and influence)

  • Anticipate (identify trends, developments... at an early stage)

  • Bringing about decisions (through constructive team appointments, use of methods...)

  • Building trust (through loyalty, example, autonomy…)

  • Collectively developing (creating purpose - why do we do what we do and what is the benefit for society...)

  • Cooperation (involving external experts, competitors...)

  • Drive (employee development, innovation...)

  • Empathy (empathizing with others to understand why they think and act the way they do...)

  • Holistic/networked thinking (allowing and encouraging thinking differently...)

  • Integrative (bringing together diverse people and thus knowledge, experience, talents…)

  • Leading remotely (virtual/global teams… using digital channels)


Based on such skills and competencies, an active and promising approach to the challenges of the VUCA world can be designed. In this way, leaders and managers acquire the capability to master the VUCA from:

Volatility        to     Vision

Uncertainty   to     Understanding

Complexity    to     Clarity

Ambiguity      to     Adaptivity/Agility

VUCA - challenge and solution at the same time


Create, a jointly supported and desirable future. The vision serves as an orientation for the organization, department, team and individual. A vision should create purpose, move something in people and thereby motivate them. It is the drive for top performance and serves as identification for the people.



At the meta-level, connections and dependencies should be clear and understood, as well as the context in which achievements are performed. What the strategy looks like to achieve the vision. What means and resources will be used to implement the operationalized strategy. What and whom to draw on and what needs to be developed to implement the strategy.



In simplicity is clarity! What are the priorities and why? Understanding of reasons, contexts and processes created through transparency is the basis for trust. This provides the energy to develop and achieve the best possible impact through a focused use of resources.



The openness in dealing with challenges. Flexibility, which allows to adapt to the situation and to stay in motion. Challenging the status quo, developing a learning culture characterized by sharing resources. Having and giving decision-making authority, as well as dealing with failures in a skillful and supportive manner. Conflicts are addressed and tackled. Innovation is a mindset and enables to generate a value chain by sharing ideas, to drive innovation processes faster and to share the burden, as well as to strengthen resilience.


For more information, please contact us.

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