Uncertainty - what it means for leadership Email Print
Published: 26th of Feb 2018 by: Debbie

This is the second of 4 blogs where we will unpack the term VUCA in the South African context.

As you may know the term VUCA refers to Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

It is by now well recognized that leaders in 2018 need to be VUCA ready, but what does the term uncertainty mean in the workplace?
What is it that we need to get ready for?

Firstly let’s understand the dictionary definition:
Uncertainty (noun) - the state of being uncertain, synonyms: unsureness, riskiness, unpredictable

If thus we need to prepare for uncertainty it will mean that:

Leaders are able to be more assertive to define their minimum requirements.
Leaders are able to influence others and willing to be influenced.
Leaders are open to collaboration and negotiation to thrash out best case scenarios.
There is always scope for change in any project.
The risk aspect of every approach is well managed.
There are limited one size fits all approaches.
Client centeredness takes priority.

What are some of the most recent and current factors that give rise to uncertainty in the broader South African context?

Political uncertainty.
The current Western Cape drought and pending expanded water shortage.
The current state of public transport in SA.
The Steinhoff saga.
The economic downgrade.

All of the above influence our economy quite radically, translating to suppliers and clients down scaling, changing the way they do things to remain profitable and thereby influencing what we know for sure.

What are some of the developments that are likely to challenge a leader’s ability to adapt to the required challenges of uncertainty?

The rise of millennials to management positions.
Government and Corporate entities that are slow to adapt to market related pace.
The rising cost of doing business (including basic service delivery cost, infrastructure cost and cost of compliance).
The success ofgender awareness campaigns.
South Africa’s large divide in socio-economic status.

In nearly all of the above, it becomes apparent that especially in times of uncertainty, it is essential that we are able to remain ethical, that we do the right thing even when no-one is watching.
It becomes imperative to have an ethical culture and a safe space for risk taking as the decision making needs to take advantage of every window of opportunity at the right time.

Stepping in to manage conflict, stepping up to change, adjusting to demands. Too many organisations are trying to centralize decision making, giving their supervisory tiers all the responsibility but none of the authority with which to do their job.

What are some of the solutions we could be implementing quickly and without too much additional cost?

Client education programs (fore warned is fore armed).
Employee ethics and information committees.
Employee diversity awareness committees.
A culture of great internal communication.
KISS programs - allowing for clearance of unnecessary paperwork (keep it simple).
Better company meeting strategies to gain more collaborative input.
A culture where questioning and learning is encouraged and rewarded.

We cannot stress enough how important it is for us to prepare our workforce adequately for great, inclusive and collaborative decision making in a climate of uncertainty as without the input from an engaged and creative team we will not be adjusting our processes quickly enough allowing for quick change when uncertain outcomes strike.

Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating.” - Simon Sinek.

© Debbie Engelbrecht

Debbie Engelbrecht is the MD of Staff Training, established in 2001. She is a soft skills facilitator and management coach and strives to enthuse, assist and empower her fellow South Africans wherever she has the skill to do so.

For more information on the www. StaffTraining. Co.za leadership training, nationally call 0861 996 660 or enquire on email at sales@stafftraining.co.za

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