The COVID-19 pandemic has been changing lifestyles, economies, and business procedures across the world for the past five months. For organizations, the pandemic has posed an entirely new set and scale of questions for leaders.
The business environment pre-COVID was already challenging for many organizations with many shutting down or reducing their workforce. The pandemic has added social and economic hardships to the already tough business terrain.
It is no big surprise that as the business world changes and becomes less predictable, running organizations becomes more complicated and uncertain. Individuals, teams and the organization as a whole must adapt quickly to avert losses while still meeting the needs of the customer.
We are in a time of accelerating disruptive change. In a VUCA world; one characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, traditional leadership skills will not be enough (Johansen 2012). VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
With the rapidly changing business environment globally, more organizations are vulnerable to VUCA challenges.
The best VUCA leaders are characterized by vision, understanding, clarity, and agility. These four skills and abilities can be viewed as a leader’s antidote to a VUCA environment (Johansen, 2012). Strathmore University Business School (SBS) strives to equip leaders with the relevant skills and expertise to navigate challenging situations effectively. Our classes feature Industry experts that help our students to understand how to apply the knowledge they gain in class. Speaking during an online Owner Manager Programme class session at SBS last week, George Ngugi, Managing Partner at Delve Training Limited gave the class participants some tips on how leaders can effectively lead during crises. Specifically, he asserted that leaders should develop their capacity to lead confidently during a crisis by using the following tools suggested by Johansen and gave the class insight on how they are being applied in his industry:
Vision can be used to counter volatility. In turbulent times vision is more crucial than ever. As a leader, you must have a clear vision of the direction in which the organization is headed in the next 3-5 years. Decisions made to counter turbulence in the business environment must keep in mind the organization’s vision.
Understanding. Uncertainty can be countered with understanding. During crisis times, leaders must be able to stop, look, and listen, more so beyond their areas of expertise to make sense of the volatility and to lead with vision.
Clarity. The complexity of any business crisis can be countered by clarity. Leaders must act quickly to make sense of the chaos and keep in mind that chaos comes fast and hard. Leaders who can respond quickly and stay in tune with all issues associated with the crisis tend to make better and more informed business decisions.
Agility. Ambiguity can be countered with agility, the ability to communicate across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions. How agile is your team? Agile leaders can react quickly to changing events and are not easily bogged down by challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic will alter the business environment significantly, some areas and industries will never be the same again. It is imperative that leaders act quickly and effectively to ensure sustainability and even growth during and post COVID-19.
Learn more about the Owner Manager Programme here.
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Article by Juliet Hinga