Creating Leaders for an Uncertain Future

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Creating Leaders for an Uncertain Future

Article written by: Nicole Badenhorst

The COVID-19 crisis is a moment of truth for leadership.

The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has abruptly reminded us how “VUCA” the future is and will inevitably continue to be. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – VUCA – are the realities of today. But there is some good news:

Leadership greatness is created in the heat of adversity. The unprecedented challenges and unpredictability of the current situation is an opportunity for the leader in all of us to stand up and shine.

Why leadership requirements are changing?

The VUCA world of the future will be formidable but loaded with opportunities. The biggest danger is not being prepared – and you can control that by equipping yourself as a leader and readying your organisation for an uncertain future.

In difficult times like today, it is tricky to think about how you can move from addressing the needs of the ‘now’ while preparing for what comes next. You can, however, be sure of one thing: leaders in the future will need to have Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. The VUCA acronym can be turned around to a more positive framing of effective leadership:

  • Volatility leads to Vision.
  • Uncertainty yields to Understanding.
  • Complexity yields to Clarity.
  • Ambiguity yields to Agility.

Leaders who bring this kind of VUCA have the future leadership skills needed to succeed in a VUCA world.

At its best, uncertainty creates an opportunity to improve on the status quo. It encourages a deeper connection and understanding. Leaders can grow and teams can align. When people are heard, understood and valued, their commitment to the team increases. Uncertainty is created by disruptive change and is an opportunity for leaders and teams to come together and re-evaluate current practices to ensure they are prepared and equipped for the future.

The emerging leader

COVID-19 has not just changed the world but also changed the DNA of our workplace ecosystem in many ways. The way in which we lead must therefore also change.

In the developmental heat of the situation, we need, and are likely to see, a new breed of effective leaders emerging. Those who:

  • Step into, not away from, development.
  • Embrace uncertainty.
  • Navigate complexity.
  • Lead with empathy, curiosity, passion.
  • Are fast, decisive, and bold.
  • Run towards the fire.

Many of these traits are traditionally viewed as tertiary, nice to have qualities, but in this unprecedented time, they will become necessary for leaders to lead organisations through a time of inconvenient uncertainty and collective trauma. Indeed, this type of leadership will not just be required at the top of the organisation’s chart but at every level of human interaction.

If you have been doing some form of leadership development in the past, now is the time to question how it could be redeveloped and redesigned in a more efficient and effective manner. Look for those individuals that cultivate trust and respect. Notice the people that balances an incredible personal resolve with a relentless drive for results and a concern for others. Keep on investing budgets and time commitments toward developing leaders. It may sound paradoxical, but if you choose not to develop your best people into becoming your best leaders, you’re turning your back on your organisation’s culture and the people that will lead and sustain the changes that are necessary for your organisation to win in the post-pandemic era.

Now is the opportune moment

Businesses everywhere will face existential threats. In such an environment, it may be natural for organisations to want to abandon or postpone work devoted to talent management and leadership development. But the truth is that this is the best time to review and shift talent management practices. Now is the opportune moment for organisations to gain complete clarity and knowledge of their leaders so that they can answer the killer questions of talent management:

  1. What do we have? What is our current supply?
  2. What do we need? What is our immediate and future demand?
  3. What are the exact competencies that will enable your leaders to thrive?

That is why we are advising our clients not to postpone their talent reviews, succession planning and leadership development initiatives but to conduct them more frequently than ever. So rather than focusing on processes and tools, it’s best to use this opportunity to reflect on the core purpose of talent management, namely establishing which leaders will lead your organisation back to recovery and beyond. The advantage you have is that the current environment is an ideal one for assessing your leadership – for there can be no better time to observe the quality of your leaders than when seismic challenges are rocking their world.

How can Crowe DNA help you build leadership capability needed for the future?

Our specialist team can help you identify future leaders in your organisation through our talent management services. With our newly developed future leadership competency framework, we can help you:

  • identify and plan leadership development using our advanced psychometric assessment centre;
  • cultivate and develop key competencies unique to your organisation, and the required leadership styles; and
  • craft a learning and development approach with the help of state-of-the-art tools such as our online academy which offers training courses to develop vital competencies and skills needed for the future leader.


Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help you meet your leadership development needs!

Please get in touch with Nicole Badenhorst today.
Nicole Badenhorst – Director
Organisational Psychologist
MCom – Ind Psych


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This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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