VUCA and leadership: What tools do leaders need?

VUCA and Leadership

The dynamic and fast-changing nature of our world today can be described by VUCA, a term coined by the US Army War
College. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity…. There are two important megatrends: digitization, and the rise of the developing world.


The first telegraph machine was invented in 1838. Forty years later Alexander Graham Bell invented the
telephone. It took over another forty years for us to invent the television and yet another forty to invent the silicon integrated
circuit chip in the 1960s.  Now artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and robotics are extending that transformation.

Rise of the developing world

The world order is changing as economic power shifts from West to East. According to a 2012 McKinsey study, it took Britain more
than 100 years to double its economic output per person during its industrial revolution and the US later took more than 50
years to do the same. More than a century later, China and India have doubled their GDP per capita in 12 and 16 years
respectively. Significantly, China and India accomplished this while having about 100 times the population base as the US and
Britain did during their industrial revolutions. According to McKinsey, “the two leading emerging economies are
experiencing roughly ten times the economic acceleration of the Industrial Revolution, on 100 times the scale – resulting in
an economic force that is over 1,000 times as big.”

Two leadership tools

Two of the most important leadership tools are the Cynefin Framework (David Snowden), and Multi-stakeholder dialogue.  Both are covered extensively in The Science of Organizational Change.

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