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Strategic Leadership in a VUCA World

Dr. Jonathan Woodson | 4:41


A number of years ago, when I was spending time at the US Army War College, where I got a degree in Strategic Studies and strategic leadership, one of the concepts I was interested, introduced to and became fascinated by was the fact that strategic leaders had to operate in what we call the VUCA World. 

VUCA is an acronym for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Now you throw those words together, and you say, what, you know, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Volatile represents what we do in the military. 

And in the concept that the war college was its strategic leaders and senior leaders had to feel comfortable operating in the VUCA. World. War by its very nature is volatile, it's uncertain, because every time you develop a battle plan, the enemy is going to change that battle plan after the first encounter. It's complex, because you're talking about everything from arms to terrain, to culture, to political objectives. And it's ambiguous, because many times these things are rapidly changing, and you get the fog of war, if you will. And it's hard to cert to sort things out. 

But what was impressed upon me is that strategic leaders have got to bring that clarity to the VUCA world, they've got to see beyond the fog, they've got to define the vision, they've got to define the end state.

Now, if you're a good strategic leader, you have help define that end state and you clearly communicated, but you don't tell your talented crew how to get there, you empower them enable them to use every bit of their ingenuity, every bit of their intellect every bit or their talent, to design the tactical approach to getting to that end state, that vision that optimal state of being or operating. 

So I was turned on and challenged and introduced to that term, and I've used it constantly, over the years. Because as you evolve as a leader, and become a strategic leader, you have got to be comfortable. Being uncomfortable living in that world of challenge. In that world of sort of cloudy, murky, where a lot of factors come together, a lot of variables come together and sorting things out.

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