Namibia: Strategic Leaders in Vuca World

Leaders in Vuca world demonstrate the traits of effective leadership during unfavourable times, turbulent and highly contested markets or macro-economic crises.

But, what does Vuca mean? The acronym Vuca stands for, Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

Historically, Vuca was used in military operations the world over when engaging the enemy on the battle field, where things were unpredictable, chaotic, and there was lack of information on which to base decisions.

However, effective strategic leaders are always able to identify opportunities and make accurate decisions to lead their people forward and gain momentum in the current situation/battle field.

The dynamics within the current operating environment requires strategic leaders to make conscious decisions during turbulent situations in order to navigate throughout the complexity and build agile organisations. The changes within the operating environment always dictate and influence how decisions are made to thrive and control volatility.

This requires clear vision, and sense of purpose of where we are now. Where are we going? and, how do we get there? These are critical questions to solve uncertainty and clear confusion (ambiguity) within the organisations or political landscape.

The answer to these questions is that you have to be clear of where you are going and you need to be flexible on how you will get there.

Leaders need to formulate clear plans of action such as short-term and long-term goals and objectives on how to get there. After identifying goals, the second important thing is crafting communication strategies that must be aligned to get buy-in and influence followers or team members to get them to the desired future.

To initiate action among people, leaders are required to clearly articulate the current situation, the change that needs to be made, the time frame at their disposal to cross the river, potential risks, and the benefit of acting now.

It is important that everyone in the bus feels and shares the same risk of probabilities to encourage everyone to do extraordinary work, with a high degree of diligence to achieve the set goals or target which could ultimately result in building an agile organisation.

The notable events that faced many Namibian businesses, big and small, are; a significant drop in business performance such as sales/production volumes, which may impact businesses in terms of high operational costs, sustainability, and profitability and which may raise future uncertainties.

However, leaders need to make critical decisions with high levels of judgemental and exercise cautions.

The majority of businesses were affected by mostly external factors such as the current global, regional and local weak economic performances. But decisions taken at strategic level always need to reflect the interest of various stakeholders.

Striking the balance in making the right decision during Vuca conditions can be very challenging in satisfying the needs of various stakeholders and in leading the organisation towards greener pastures.

Effective leaders normally formulate semi-risk strategic framework embedded with flexibility mechanisms that allow the organisation to explore various opportunities, optimise new innovations and leverage core competencies of their skilled workforce.

Leaders in the Vuca world need to understand the dynamics of their workforce, direct or indirect competition, the political land scape (government policies) and the general regulatory system. This helps leaders make good decisions when faced with complex situations about the survival of the business.

How To Build an Agile Organisation in VUCA World

Today's business leaders must have an appetite to embrace Vuca, as we either prepare ourselves to lead effectively in the midst of chaos or we simply become victims.

To enhance leadership capacity, it is important that both individual leaders and organisational teams strive to:

- Have a desire to learn. This puts the leaders ahead of their learning curve to attain the necessary knowledge and skills set in order to be successful in the present and also to have the foresight to anticipate future challenges and enhance their capability to develop robust strategies.

- Embrace, re-learn and enforce digital intelligence learning within their areas of responsibilities; encourage innovation from their team members and must have a high appetite to explore new ways of doing things.

- Have urgency to relearn and adapt, when it comes to surviving and even thriving in a Vuca environment, timeliness in taking the right decision and action is of paramount importance. This can only happen when leaders and their teams have a sense of urgency to quickly gain new knowledge and skills to address the new realities.

- Have a resolute mindset to embrace change. Great leaders change before change is even needed. They are always ahead of the innovation curve and have great strategic insights to anticipate Vuca conditions and act accordingly.

- Have an unwavering commitment not to compromise values. As much as change is necessary when leading in a Vuca environment, good leaders must also know what must not be changed.

The underlying importance of building an agile organisation and its main drivers are strategic leadership and the right investment in human capital enablers, particularly the leadership development programme. It is therefore recommended that organisations strive to optimise on the Vuca environment, and constantly develop and up-skill their workforce to maintain the status quo and meet future needs of business sustainably.

* Peter Haingwedja is a strategist. He holds a BA in financial management and MBA specialising in strategic leadership and employee performance. The above are his own views and are not necessarily those of his employer or any associate. He can be reached at e-mail: mfongokongo@gmail.com.

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