21st Century – a crisis or opportunity
This question is asked quite often by leaders who participate in the ‘E-Series Leadership Coaching Program.’ It needs reflection to reach a conclusion.
Many experts describe the modern world in 4 words.
V – Volatile
U – Uncertain
C – Complex
A – Ambiguous
This term was coined by the US military to describe the post-cold war world. However, now there seems to be no escape from it for any of us. Our only option is to confront it head on and work our way through it.
We hear stories every day from all around the globe that paint a picture of VUCA. Earlier, when disaster struck, it was confined to that geographic location. Now, news of its occurrence and the repercussions it carries spread like wildfire. The news alone is enough to get in a VUCA state of mind. A terror attack in any part of the world that we see on the TV, puts us in a VUCA state right in our own living rooms. Thanks to technology, things happening in any part of the World can be a source to get into a VUCA state of mind.
We cannot deny that we feel the impact or experience being in a VUCA state at any moment.
John F Kennedy, former U.S president once said, the Chinese character for Crisis has two characters. One stroke stands for danger while the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity.
Volatility does mean graphical spikes. This can be a source of tension, worry and stress. In the same breath, in many cases, a crisis is what it takes to make a person find willpower, courage, and determination. Many times, in the face of adverse conditions alone, can a person shine. Amidst crisis, lies the seed of opportunity.
Soldiers, who serve at our borders every day, face situations where there is heightened stress and danger. Volatility defines the very nature of their work. They must keep calm and make the right choice in the face of danger. We do experience extremities but what we face is incomparable to our troops, who have little choice between life and death in a combat situation.
Uncertainty is the inability to know everything, the lack of predictability and likelihood of “surprise” events.
I once met a person who was promoted to be a leadership position but none his of team members were willing to take his inputs or be led by him. How does he deal with such a bewildering surprise? It is a different matter that he was supported to overcome the situation with an alternative solution.
Complex can be defined in various ways. Something that makes the mind hazy due to its puzzling nature can be described as complex.
One of our leadership program participant’s, some years ago was doing the back-end work for an important technical presentation to be delivered in Saudi Arabia. The senior who had to deliver this presentation was denied a VISA for some reason. Now the onus fell on this leadership program participant. He had no domain knowledge as he was a purely technical person. To add to this, he was inexperienced when compared to his senior, so there was an issue of acceptability. Moreover, he had not given any presentations to clients thus far. The other competing vendor was a market leader. This is an example of a very complex situation.
Ambiguity is when we find ourselves sitting on the fence split between two choices, it is because we can’t be decisive. It is easy to make a choice between one good and one bad alternative. The indecision arises when we need to make a choice between 2 good or great options.
Once a person walked into my coaching session in the year 2002 and asked how does he make a choice when he has received offers from WIPRO as well as Infosys?
Now both companies at that point of time, were the most sought-after job destinations for software professionals.
This blogpost is for you to mull over and relate it to some of your own experiences. You will hear more from us on this very subject in the next blogpost.
Those who have completed our E-Series Leadership Coaching Program can review the following models which would help you to get into a neutral state:
– Ways to get into Assured State
– Assured State framework
If you have any perceptions, clarifications or queries you would like to share, please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org