Volatility - what it means for leadership Email Print
Published: 20th of Feb 2018 by: Debbie

This is the first 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 Volatility mean in the workplace? And what is it that we need to get ready for?

Firstly let’s understand the dictionary definition:
Volatility (adjective) - Liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse.

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


Leaders are able to rapidly adjust to change.
Leaders are able to manage this change effectively.
Leaders encourage a culture of adaptability, experimentation and pragmatism, within the ambit of compliance.
Leaders are able to think critically and encourage critical thinking and autonomy in their teams.
Leaders are risk aware and able to mitigate risks wherever possible.

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

Political influence.
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 the way we do things.
What are some of the developments that are likely to challenge a leader’s ability to adapt to the required challenges?

High pace and rate of technological advances.
Recruiting, training and retaining a suitably skilled workforce.
The burden of administrative compliance throughout all processes.
Pace of decision making.

In nearly all of the above, time is of the essence, decision making needs to be both critical and quick, adaptation and pragmatism are highly required and sustaining a combination of task and people centeredness is paramount.

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

Distribution of authority (setting up faster processes for more critical tasks).
Collaboration and inclusion (recognizing the strength of diversity and leveraging off it).
Coaching and mentoring programs (assisting with both of the above).
Self Mastery and Emotional Intelligence (exploring own relationship to change).
Additional focus on a positive workplace psychology (taking HR, wellness programs and workplace skills training seriously).

We cannot stress enough how important it is for today’s leaders in South Africa to grow beyond the requirements of a “management” job into the area of leadership.

“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work” - Seth Godin.



© 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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