If we thought we were living in a VUCA world before…?

We coach, develop and work alongside leaders and teams to shift ideas on leadership and provide the skills and tools needed to grow teams.


Author: Phil Hartwick
First Published: 2020

If we thought we were living in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) before, what are we experiencing now?

People can do crazy stuff when they are threatened enough and start looking out for themselves at the expense of others; toilet paper hoarding is a low impact and early example. This ‘out for oneself’ strategy can become a deadly spiral of competitive behaviours vying for increasingly limited resources. Some particularly anxious people will even have hidden away their own assault rifle for the day chaos reigns.

I doubt many of us were remotely prepared for what we are experiencing today and what probably lays ahead. Call me naïve, but I was so focused on the contagion, that I was blindsided by the rapidly tanking global economy. How did that sneak up?

So, where and how do I find support in these turbulent times?

Let me focus on feelings and what I look for when I am stressed.

  • When I feel like I am melting down, I look for a rock; someone who I can believe in that is steady and calm in the face of adversity.

  • When I feel lost and don’t know what to do, I listen for someone who can confidently and authoritatively align me with others to a common direction and priorities.

  • When things aren’t going well, or even downright badly, I look to someone who has sensible ideas to make things better and has a positive attitude.

  • When I am feeling confused and overwhelmed, I want someone who can clear the fog and describe a better place they are sure is over the horizon.

  • When I am feeling alone in a sea of doubt, I look for someone to believe in me and what I can do and the value I bring.

  • When I am experiencing working at cross purposes with others who seem to push only their agendas, I want help from someone who can help us appreciate each other and show us how to collaborate again.

  • When I feel like I have lost faith in other’s motives, I want someone to remind me what trust feels like, by trusting me.

You may have thought that this was just another kumbaya lesson in leadership and that I was about to tell you that these were the 6 steps to becoming the hero leader with all of those traits. Right?? Well, not quite.

I think we often make the mistake of expecting our leaders and managers to have all of these traits, particularly in times of stress. But these same leaders are also experiencing their own stress. Expecting all of that from our leaders is probably expecting way too much.

What we should be doing instead is to look for these qualities from the people that surround us. Times of crisis and/or stress have long been recognised as times when teams can pull together. Teams and team members can collectively provide the support that I mention above. Re-read the attributes above and ask yourself, can we find these in our team? I bet you can find most.

And where you don’t have one in obvious supply, can you work on that one yourself?

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