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Leading in a VUCA World

Course Overview

“It is evident that conventional leadership development practices are no longer adequate. Organisations globally need to incorporate the next generation leadership competencies in order to address the development needs of their rising leaders. This expanded group of upcoming leaders need to have a broader skillset, one that equips them to think and act globally in a VUCA business environment. They must do so while embracing cross-cultural diversity and cultivating collaborative relationships within and outside their walls. These are the hallmarks of the mindset needed to develop effective global leaders.

 – Prof Sattar Bawany, co-author, ‘2016 Trends in Executive Development: A Benchmark Report

Leading in a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) not only provide a challenging environment for leaders to operate and for executive development programs to have an impact: it also provides a much-needed range of new competencies.  The new reality is resulting in the realization that new and different capabilities are needed to succeed.

In essence, the heart of the managerial challenge that confronts today’s managers is learning how to lead in situations of ever greater VUCA business environment, allied with the needs to deal with scale, complexity and new organisational forms that often break with the traditional organisational models and structures within which many have learned their ‘managerial trade’. So the basic assumption that past experience is the key for future managerial success is more open to scrutiny than ever.

Cognitive Readiness Skills for Leading in a VUCA World

Leading in a world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) not only provide a challenging environment for leaders to operate and for executive development programs to have an impact: it also provides a much-needed range of new competencies.  The new reality is resulting in the realization that new and different capabilities are needed to succeed (See Figure 1).

In particular, leaders today must deal with:

  1. Volatility in economic conditions, including a slowly recovering economy and looming interest rate increases, and changing customer requirements.
  2. Uncertainty brought about by increasing globalization, as well as regulatory and legislative changes.
  3. Complexity driven by revolutionary technology changes impacting organisational products, and ongoing demand for increased innovation in a climate of rapid technological evolution.
  4. Ambiguity brought about by the generational shift accompanied by Baby Boomer retirements and Next Gen Leaders rising to take more and more senior roles. All of these factors combine to create an extremely dynamic climate that puts pressure on leaders to excel.

Figure 1: L.E.A.P. Competencies for Leading in a VUCA World

LEAP through the VUCA World

Adapted from:

1) Sattar Bawany (2016), “NextGen Leaders for a VUCA World: Transforming Future Leaders for Success” in Leadership Excellence Essentials, Issue 08.2016 (August 2016)

2) Sattar Bawany (2014), “Building High Performance Organisations with Results-based Leadership Framework” in Leadership Excellence Essentials, Issue 11.2014 (November 2014).

The New Realities: Results-Based Leadership (RBL)

We are operating in a hypercompetitive VUCA business environment. The world moves faster today when compared to 20-30 years ago. Companies feel the pressure to decrease time to market and improve the quality of products while delivering on ever-changing customer expectations to maintain competitive posture – that is, be adaptive and nimble. Driving results in High Performance organisations (HPOs) is difficult even for companies who have the benefit of dedicated and knowledgeable employees and business leaders to leverage.

Leadership in a VUCA World is all about the ability to have impact and influence on your followers so as to engage them towards achieving results of your organisation which is operating in an ever greater fast paced globalised business environment which is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Today, people often point to the importance of various leadership competencies including cognitive readiness (critical & strategic thinking skills), emotional & social intelligence, managerial coaching and leading team for performance, effective negotiation & conflict management and cross cultural communication & diversity management in driving results and achieving organisational success in a high performance organisation

Course Outline

Session Outline/Activities
Module 1 – Introduction & Program Objectives
  • Introduction & Checking-In
  • Review Workshop Objectives
  • Setting for Collaborative Session: S.C.O.P.E Approach
  • Group Discussion: Learnt on Executive Derailment
Module 2 – Leading in a VUCA World: What does it mean to you?
  • Introduction of the Origin of VUCA
  • The 4 elements of VUCA Business Environment
  • Group Discussion: Participants will review their challenges in a VUCA World in organisational context
Module 3 – Cognitive Readiness – Beyond Critical Thinking
  • The Importance of “Cognitive Readiness” as a Managerial Leadership Competency
  • Cognitive Readiness (CR) and Critical Thinking (CT): Competency for  Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • Case Study: Application of CR & CT at the Workplace
Module 4 –”L.E.A.P.” Through the Fog in a VUCA World
  • The “L.E.A.P.” Competencies of Effective Leaders in a VUCA World
    • iberal;
    • xuberant
    • gility and
    • artnership
  • Developing Critical Thinking Skills using “R.E.D.” Model:
    • R ecognize Assumptions;
    • E valuate Arguments and
    • D raw Conclusions
  • Group Exercise: Application of the “R.E.D.” Model at the Workplace
Module 5 – Developing Your Emotional & Social Intelligence Skills
  • Harvard Video: Daniel Goleman on Social & Emotional Intelligence
  •  ‘How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?’
  • Goleman’s & BarOn’s Framework of E.I Competencies
  • Individual Exercise: ‘Amygdala Hijack
Module 6 – Summary and SMART Personal Development Plan
  • Review of the Key Concepts and Models
  • Individual Exercise: Crafting a SMART Leadership Development Plan for the next 90 days
  • Recommended Post Workshop Readings

Learning Outcomes

This intensive managerial leadership training program combines proven-in-action techniques with peer interaction help the participants to:

  • Immerse on an innovative experiential learning that will take them out of their comfort zone and with these experiences acting as catalyst; they are designed to encourage the participants to think deeply about themselves as a manager and leader in a VUCA World
  • Leave this program with a renewed sense of energy as time out from the day-to-day gives them space and freedom to think and self-reflect as a leader
  • Gain a clear understanding about the context for leadership today’s VUCA business environment
  • Understand the Cognitive Readiness and Emotional Intelligence (EI) competency framework
  • Understand the repertoire of leadership styles that can impact employee engagement
  • Discover how to use critical thinking to determine criteria and evaluate options in decision making.
  • Appreciate how effective leadership can influence behaviour, goals, decision–making
  • Develop a SMART Leadership Development Plan

Modes of Teaching and Learning

This workshop will employ a combination of teaching methods to foster both critical thinking and cooperative and active learning. The workshop will incorporate both traditional and interactive methods of teaching, including the use of video materials, published literature and articles, case studies, etc.

Participants will be required to apply the course materials to current issues within their organisations. Participants will be expected to participate actively in a series of in classroom activities, such as seminars, case-study analyses, role-playing exercises and debates.

Target Audience

This workshop aim at leaders are all levels including executives, managers and supervisors who intend to improve their managerial leadership abilities in sustaining employee engagement and with emotional intelligence and lead their team to success and achieving organisational goals in a VUCA business environment.


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