Strategy, Innovation & Leadership

Future-proof leadership in a VUCA world

By Eric Dooms | February 19, 2020 | 2 min read

Brexit, the trade war between the US and China, Trump, climate change... These unpredictable geopolitical developments all impact day-to-day operations at Dutch companies. And although management and directors tend to take a somewhat passive approach, they will need to take action. As an executive, how should you deal with this so-called VUCA world? How do you make sure you’re prepared when there are no readymade answers to be found these days?

No readymade answers

Many executives are confused by the current volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous large-scale global developments we face. Nevertheless, management teams and directors will have to come to terms with the fact that they can’t influence certain developments, but will still have to deal with their consequences. Handling situations that may change at any moment requires a different approach.

Looking outward

Continuing to think inside the box for your specific industry won’t get you any usable answers—executives will have to start looking outward. In times like these, being aware of current socio-political issues is paramount. That’s why stakeholder management is more important than ever. Even just national developments like the nitrogen issue, the farmer protests and phasing out natural gas have consequences that affect us all, transcending individual industries. They require us to seek out parties from outside our own industry, and to realize we have common interests. That way, we can join forces to address them if necessary.

A non-western perspective on geopolitical developments

Executives should also keep a close eye on issues like climate change policymaking and other international developments, as well as the consequences those will have on import, export, investments, relations and industry regulations. Staying informed about global trends and taking multiple angles into account also helps executives to view geopolitical developments from a non-western perspective. Doing so might lead to new insights that can help you deal with seemingly intangible developments.

Choose wisely

Companies that understand how developments in the VUCA world affect the future of their company will understand the importance of strategic corporate and public affairs involvement, and will invest accordingly. However, it’s impossible to follow and correctly interpret all geopolitical developments; the main challenge executives face is how to choose wisely based on an overwhelming amount of information. Take the UN Sustainable Development Goals, for example: which of the 17 goals are most in line with your industry and company, and how can you help achieve them?

Future-proof operations

Everyday pressure or not, now is the time to future-proof your daily operations: institutionalize strategic thinking from different perspectives, create space to question certainties currently taken for granted, and critically reflect on current decision-making processes.

Lay your foundation for leadership in a VUCA world

The TIAS Master program Executive MBA focuses on the complex challenges that businesses face nowadays. The program helps students lay a new foundation from which they learn to see themselves, their organization, their industry and international developments from different perspectives, so they can make better decisions that involve their team. We’ll put you in a number of completely different environments, so you’ll learn what it’s like to operate in an unknown, complex world full of uncertainties. Doing so will help you let go of familiar methods: once you realize your old way of doing things won’t work any longer, you’ll take a different approach to decision-making.

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