I have found that many leaders I work with have hit a wall. They are burned out, feel like their performance is sub-optimal, or they just feel incompetent in a world outpacing them. What worked for them in the past no longer delivers results. Their professional skills developed in business school, endless workshops and courses, and on-the-job training simply aren’t adequate any longer. They are stuck and losing ground.
This is because in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, the shifting landscape has made old paradigms obsolete in virtually every industry, and for leading in general.
Teams are struggling as well as they push back against the tide of this new reality. Doing even more, creating new products and turning the marketing knobs harder reflects a bias toward action. Without developing an equal bias toward “non-action action,” this is a losing battle.
How to Win in a VUCA World
This new battlefield will crush leaders who continue to chase profit at the expense of people. Your team is your business; all else is subject to the winds of change, easily made irrelevant as those winds blow. Intuition, emotional strength and a fail-fast mindset are the keys to unlocking the creative force to win. Those are soft skills, which require new training to develop. Non-action action means to pause, breathe and think about your thinking. The aim is to create new patterns and paradigms that will sync up with the exponential pace of change. Then you take actual action, executing fast and explosively.
Leaders will need emotional, moral, and spiritual strength. Setting their egos aside, they will serve the team with trust and a radical focus on the mission. They will also need a global mindset and compassionate communication skills. Creating a profoundly deep connection with the team, and more meaningful purpose for their organization, will be key measures of success.
Facing Your Fear Wolf
The one thing standing in the way of these new skills is your fear wolf.
The fear wolf is a metaphor for what’s blocking you psychologically and emotionally— deeply ingrained biases, fears and reactionary patterns. These things hold you back from full engagement with your team, and from your own intuitive genius.
In a VUCA world it’s critical to stare down the fear wolf and overcome negative conditioning. It’s the only way to access full capacity and unlock truly massive potential. You are not a victim of circumstances. This moment in history signals a powerful opportunity to reinvent and thrive. You can’t blame the market, the volatility, the competitors or the customers. It’s up to you to change or be sidelined in this new climate.
You must transform.
But you can’t rely on old strategies and tactics and expect better results. Leading teams in the exponential age will require deep character exemplified by moral and spiritual courage, trust and trustworthiness, respect and respectability, excellence and adaptability, persistent growth, resiliency, and alignment around a shared purpose and vision.
The Work is Within
It’s time to stop casting your own shadow onto your team. The shadow is made up of your negative conditioned biases and behaviors. Your shadow shows up as projection; transference; aggressive, passive-aggressive, or passive behavior; or just outright horrible communication skills. Your team will not trust or respect you fully until you do this work. Your shadow makes you the limiting factor in your own success. (I speak from experience on this topic!)
The way through VUCA is with great self-awareness. Starving your fear wolf is achieved through the non-action action of a daily practice of reflection and thinking about your thinking. Developing these skills requires that you slow down and investigate what’s deep within. There you will identify negative qualities blocking intuition, creativity and connection. Staring down the fear wolf is hard work, but well worth the effort. It must be done in order to succeed in the coming challenging times. Your future as a leader could well depend on these new skills.
So, are you ready to stare down your fear wolf? Why not start right now?