Are you prepared for what was once unimaginable?

In a short window of five years, three distinct periods have required different leadership capabilities. Understanding the changes and what is required of you is essential to success.

2018-19: Leading Through Complex Change

The term “V.U.C.A.” (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) was particularly popular during this period. VUCA, however, was still driven by unpredictable events that, while overlapping, had measurable time between them.

As trade wars, political turmoil, environmental concerns, and social movements increased, so did pressure on leadership. As a result, organizations asked their leaders to become stronger at:

  • establishing a compelling vision,
  • thinking strategically,
  • operating with an enterprise mindset,
  • demonstrating emotional intelligence,
  • and change management.

2020-21: Leading in a Time of Crisis

Covid is the obvious headline during this period. Experienced and astute leaders, with memories of 9-11, the 2018 financial meltdown and other crises, emphasized speed to neutralize threats by demonstrating
these leadership requirements:

  • fast reactions,
  • quick decision making,
  • centralized control,
  • directive communications,
  • and stakeholder management.

Because the threat was seen by everyone, the tolerance for these leadership behaviors and risk was remarkably high. Lives – both for individuals and the company as a whole – were on the line.

2022 to today: Leading in Perpetual Crisis

It is the transition to this third period that presents the most significant opportunity for leaders. The crisis of the earlier period has transitioned to what researchers Michaela Kerrissey and Amy Edmondson, call a “sustained crisis.”

Instead of a “galvanizing moment” where everyone can see a singular menace and which calls us to our human best, multiple threats appear and seemingly repeat daily. Ambiguity and fatigue mount as “reserves are depleted” – yet the employee is asked for more energy and greater urgency in their actions.

Some leaders are still leading as though they are in an initial crisis, the preceding period. Their approach is outdated and the results are disastrous: When the human body suffers from a constant flow of adrenaline, it can cause heart disease and palpitations, high blood pressure, the inability to sleep and anxiety.

With such leadership, there is little wonder why employees check out.

Leading in constant crisis requires an emphasis on different capabilities than those required in the first two periods:

  • intentionality, particularly in relationship building,
  • daily efforts to create deep alignment,
  • greater inclusion of diverse perspectives,
  • establishing a shared reality or meaning,
  • and decentralized decision making.

The Evolution of Leadership Development

Preparing for what was once thought unimaginable – leading in a perpetual state of crisis – requires refining how leaders are developed.

At Verus Global, we’ve never considered ourselves a leadership training company. Instead, we remain a solutions company. Knowing the difference between the two approaches has never been so important.

Leaders will always need skill development in areas consistent with earlier periods. For example, we can all benefit from improving our communication, trust-building, psychological safety or collaboration skills.

When those trainings are delivered as cognitive exercises only loosely connected to the needs of a person leading in perpetual crisis, however, the investment is sub-optimized (too often, grossly so).

The future of leadership development will continue to be determined by the problems leaders need to solve or the opportunities they wish to seize. Today, leaders are in a state of perpetual crisis. Therefore, they seek the fastest, most virtuous, practical and sustainable methods for enabling them to mobilize the hearts and minds of others – and focus the energy of the organization forward.

Activate Your Greatness.

Activate Your Greatness.

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