Leadership in challenging times [GUEST BLOG]

Posted by Gina Balarin

Being flexible in challenging times is key to keeping your business in, well, business!  Gina Balarin, TedX speaker and B2B marketing communicator, shares her views on how to stay agile, even during the tough times.  


Gina Balarin, inspirational B2B marketing communicator, strategist, speaker and content marketing professional, is passionate about being responsive during difficult times, and shares her advice on leadership during the worst of times.


Times are tough, man. Things are changing so fast it’s hard to know which way is up, the Rand’s not doing so well and politics, sho! Let’s not even go there, bru.

When the seas are rough, it takes a savvy ship captain to keep the crew on track and the compass pointing the right way. VUCA is the compass for the modern leader.

So what’s all this stuff about VUCA? And what does it have to do with you?

VUCA is a very popular acronym at the moment, especially in leadership circles, but it’s been around for a while. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. And, well, I don’t know about you, but I think we’re living in pretty VUCA times right now! According to Wikipedia, “the notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War”. That was a long time ago. But I guess the lesson here is: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So why is it popular again now, and what can we do about it? Well, we can understand what it really means and try to flip it on its head.

I love the way the Harvard Business Review says that this trendy managerial acronym is a catchall for “Hey, it’s crazy out there!” We know that right?

It might seem hard, overwhelming even when times are tough – but in many ways times are less tough than they were in the years leading up to 1991 – we’ve got 4G and broadband, after all, and access to the whole world’s knowledge at our fingertips (literally), a democratic country, and sunshine (don’t knock it – people who emigrated to gloomy countries like England are moving back to SA because they miss it so much).

If you feel helpless, panicked, frustrated, out of control, overwhelmed, uncertain, distracted or overwhelmed by this VUCA world, you’re not alone. But you don’t have to let it keep you down: it was Einstein who said, ““Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Now, he was one smart dude, so maybe we should take his advice?

The other way of feeling about a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world is to flip it upside down and see it as an opportunity, a way that could liberate us, something we could be positive or even optimistic about, if we choose to turn difficulty into an opportunity to empower ourselves.

If we look at it this way, let’s turn the VUCA acronym on its head, too. Let’s make VUCA stand for Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. Let’s know where we want to go and work on understanding our challenges better, so we can move forward to solve them. Let’s be clear about what we think we can achieve, and how to achieve it, and let’s be agile when we’re trying to get there: not so flexible that we lose sight of what we’re trying to do, but not so rigid that we can’t adapt to change as it comes.

In summary, each and every single one of us has the power to cope with each of these crazy situations and it’s not as hard as we think. Let’s simply:

  • Put our heads down, together
  • Focus
  • Find solutions
  • Build clear plans
  • Act on those plans
  • Change, as necessary
  • Learn lessons and,
  • Succeed

In this way, we can turn volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous situations into success, and harness our indomitable spirit.

Vuya, VUCA! Bring it on. We’re ready for you.

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