Leadership in a VUCA world

 The acronym ‘VUCA’ has been used to describe this change, but VUCA is also becoming the ‘new normal’ worldwide. This has meant that the world is becoming more difficult to understand. Markets are becoming more fragmented, organisations becoming more globalised, and there is a risk of job losses due to artificial intelligence.

So how can business leaders, MBAs and Business Schools keep up with this change?

There is plenty online about the skills that a leader needs. One such skill involves dealing with uncertainty and making sure businesses can keep up with the change we see in the world today.

To do this, MBAs need to display confidence in dealing with these issues of uncertainty and change. In other words, MBAs need to deal with the unknown, and deal with it appropriately. They need to become leaders adept in and with knowledge of the technology used today.

Ideas of the leader with a knowledge of technology came about after the financial crisis in 2008. People debated about the quality of leaders that Business Schools were producing and concluded one of the reasons for the crisis was the excesses of shareholder value and the behaviour of MBAs.

With this in mind, should Business Schools realign their curriculum to deal with leadership issues rather than traditional core modules such as economics and finance?

I think so. Trends in current business means that room has to be made for the impact for technology, and MBA leadership courses have already started to include this topic. However, the next stage for Business Schools is to empower and encourage these leadership skills that deal with these new concepts, while retaining a sustainable business model.

On way in which Business Schools are doing this is by designing MBA courses which concentrate on personal leadership styles and development within a more holistic and ethical framework. These courses also try to instil in leaders a greater sense of agility so they have the skills to face the challenges of the future.

This new form of teaching goes beyond people, processes and numbers and takes a more inclusive view of the role of business in the environment with an emphasis on sustainability.

These new teaching methods also highlight that future leaders won’t have all the answers, but they can use the people in their network and organisation, and the massive amounts of data at their disposal to arrive at an appropriate response to the challenges they face.

Data will play a big part in finding solutions to challenges in the future as data will help leaders make better and swifter decisions. As a result, Business Schools have included topics in their MBA programmes such as how we can use AI as a tool rather than seeing it as a threat. For example, used as a tool, AI can help a leader and an organisation by improving employee engagement, training employees, and helping to get products or services to launch quickly and effectively.

The bottom line is that Business Schools have moved on from merely imparting knowledge at a merely technical level of ‘intelligence’. They are trying to develop further emotional, political and social intelligence in leadership modules, and advise on the use of AI. Business Schools are doing this in the hope that future leaders will have the armoury to cope with the ‘new normal’ that is constant change.