Why Developing Dynamic Leaders is a Business Imperative for Today’s VUCA+ World

A dynamic leader working within a VUCA+ world

Global disruption has become common in today’s economic landscape. Pandemics, climate change, and geopolitical risks have all left their mark on how business is conducted in the 21st century. Waiting out the storm of disruption is not feasible — the world has increased in volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA+) and continues to do so. According to Harvard Business Review, the World Uncertainty Index “has been consistently rising since 2016” and has more than doubled since 2000. 

While organizations acknowledge the impact of an increasingly VUCA+ world, few are equipped with the leadership needed to manage and thrive through the tide of global disruption. In McKinsey and Company’s CEO Excellence survey, executives indicated that global disruption had the greatest impact on how they were leading their organizations in 2023. However, only a slight majority of the executives surveyed said they would “reassess strategic and economic assumptions” on an ongoing basis in response to possible economic downturns. This indicates that nearly half of the CEOs are operating on strategic plans that may ignore current and future possible disruptions.

Likewise, less than a quarter of respondents to the Deloitte 2023 Global Human Capital Trends survey felt that their organization’s leadership had “the capabilities necessary to manage in a disrupted, boundaryless world.” Many leaders are already finding it difficult to lead effectively amid exponential change. Almost half of the respondents reported leaders “are overwhelmed by the number and frequency of disruptive shifts occurring” and fail to prioritize accordingly. Disruption paralyzes leaders who are ill-equipped to cope with uncertainty.

Leaders are failing because organizations have relied on outdated, stagnant models of leadership. In her article “Managing Through Uncertainty,” Abbie Lundberg said effective leaders “must be able to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances” and can no longer rely on “historically vaunted hallmarks of leadership” such as vision and the ability to inspire. In the aforementioned survey, Deloitte has also recognized that the success of a leader no longer correlates to the “ability to come up with the right answer or solution” but is “more dependent on creating an environment and mobilizing workers to experiment and adapt.” The standard for leadership has changed. 

Leaders must develop flexibility, adaptability, and resilience, as well as continuous learning and growth mindsets. Leaders must become dynamic to successfully lead organizations in today’s VUCA+ world.

Dynamic Leadership is the Solution for a VUCA+ World

Flexibility, adaptability, and resilience are desperately needed within leadership ranks across all industries. In its Future of Jobs 2023 report, the World Economic Forum identified resilience, flexibility, and agility as the third most important skills needed. Today’s VUCA+ world demands dynamic leaders — those with the ability to apply different skills, recognize patterns, be flexible, and self-manage as needed — pivoting and leading in different organizational dynamics, teams, and situations. Dynamic leaders know how and when to apply capabilities based on the context of the moment. 

Yet, organizations struggle to develop these key capabilities within their leadership ranks. Research from McKinsey Global Institute found that individuals with proficiency in the “self-leadership” capabilities of “adaptability” and “coping with uncertainty” led to greater outcomes but “are not commonly covered by adult-training programs” and showed no association with higher education. A new approach to leadership development is needed.

How to Develop Dynamic Leaders

Leadership coaching provides the most effective means for developing dynamic leaders. Leadership coaching is a highly personalized personal and professional development experience using an action-oriented approach. Leaders work in partnership with a coach to increase their self-awareness and uncover insights that can lead to lasting behavior and mindset shifts, hone their leadership style and capabilities, and expand their impact.

 

Dynamic leadership is more than the ability to cope with uncertainty — leaders must actively engage with it to become agents of change. In “6 Strategies for Leading Through Uncertainty,” for Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Zucker and Darin Rowell stated that leaders must “learn to acknowledge and embrace the discomfort [of uncertainty] as an expected and normal part of the learning process.” Coaches intentionally move leaders from their comfort zone to their learning zone, empowering them to embrace uncertainty.

To learn more about dynamic leadership and how coaching can transform your leadership bench, request a demo of Sounding Board’s Dynamic Leader Development Suite today.

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