​Three Unexpected Capabilities to Lead During Disruptive Times

By: Supriya Desai

Image Source: Supriya Desai

Are you prepared to lead your organization in a business environment marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity?

As a leader, you may be at the epicenter of your organization's response to dynamic industry events. You may have "girded" yourself to withstand an onslaught of unknowns, rapid fire changes and surprise "left turns" in your business, relying on well-developed skills to maintain control of the seemingly uncontrollable. But do you have the relevant capabilities to master the art of leadership during transformational times?

If you believe the required skills are confidence, decisiveness, boldness or any number of historically celebrated leadership traits, it's time to re-consider in light of the VUCA realities bearing down on global industries, such as:

  • Volatile prices that can hijack supply chains, making predictability elusive at best.

  • Uncertain outcomes that can force many executive teams and/or boards to instinctively hedge their bets, paralyzing leaders.
  • Complexities of operating a business in today's dynamic global economy that are mirrored in hyper-complex organization structures, suppressing what may be a deep underlying desire on the part of managers and employees to collaborate, simplify and perform.
  • Ambiguity in markets that results in vague business strategies, potentially creating directionless busy work, conflicting initiatives, and frustrated, often tentative, leaders.
  • Simplicity, vulnerability and resilience are three often overlooked capabilities to help your teams - and thus, your organization -- respond to such unpredictable shifts, and retool yourself into a 21st Century Change Master™. If that's surprising, consider how one or more of the competencies described below can help you better manage a current business challenge.

    Simplicity: In complex circumstances or with unclear information, you are able to simplify the complex to the most salient points. You are able to focus on a goal - and what needs to happen to achieve that goal - and prevent yourself or your teams from being paralyzed by complexity or engaging in counterproductive behavior. You constantly ask yourself and your teams, "What is the goal in this situation?" and "What's standing in the way of achieving that goal?" Your actions reflect a preference for how best to achieve primary goals.

    Vulnerability: Conventional wisdom tells us, "Never let them see you sweat." It's why we celebrate conviction and resolve as core leadership capabilities. In contrast, vulnerable leaders are willing to trust others with their real selves. This includes the part of you that does not know all the answers or what's going to happen next... an oft-denied reality during times of unpredictability. This is true self-confidence. Are you willing to eschew bravado for authenticity in order to get to the optimal solution? Would you gather great minds together to solve a problem you are ill-equipped to address alone? Are you willing to show your sense of self and humor? If you answered yes, you're on the path to build real connections and increase your effectiveness as a change leader.

    Resilience: Many think of resilience - the overcome-the-odds stories - as the province of sports, not management. As leaders (on and off the field), you practice resilience by accepting what has occurred, anchoring in the organization's values, reflecting on lessons learned through missteps, and focusing on how to execute with your newly discovered wisdom. You rely on your team to find solutions to intractable problems. As a resilient leader, you don't always need to be right, and admit to and learn from your mistakes quickly so you and your team can move on to the next opportunity.

    If you recognize the importance of becoming a 21st Century Change Master™, you haven't fallen prey to the idea that "change" is a bad word and see the value in developing a more relevant set of capabilities. Does re-tooling take commitment? Yes, along with some time. But where else are you spending your time that could be as important as enabling the success of your people during times of large-scale transformation and, thereby, the success of your new business strategy?

    Desai Transformation LLC is an independent advisory and coaching firm specializing in strategy execution, transformation planning and execution, and change leadership. We provide trustworthy, candid, creative and practical insights to executive-level change leaders and management teams around the world about how to successfully plan and execute transformation. We also provide executive leadership coaching to develop change masters at the individual and team level, ensuring that leader-led change is the rule not the exception at our global clients' organizations.