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Leadership in a VUCA World

Posted in Article on August 01, 2016 by: Michael Franks

Leadership in a VUCA World

In last month’s edition of the LRMG Express, we brought you thought leadership from the getAbstract L&D Conference entitled “Embracing Change, Unleashing Talent”. This month we bring you Michael Franks’ analysis of the evolution of business and he provides a look at leadership in 2016 for high-performing organisations.


The Industrial Age is a period of history that encompasses the changes in economic and social organisation that began around 1760 in Great Britain and later in other countries, characterised chiefly by the replacement of hand tools with power-driven machines such as the the steam engine, and by the concentration of industry in large establishments.


Business in the Industrial Age was characterised by:

  • Shareholder value.
  • Hierarchies.
  • Develop in house.
  • Control.
  • Efficiency.
  • Commands.
  • Paycheck. (Peter Drucker Forum)

The Information Age (also known as the Computer Age, Digital Age, or New Media Age) is a period in human history characterised by the shift from traditional industry that the Industrial Revolution brought through industrialisation, to an economy based on information computerisation. The onset of the Information Age is associated with the Digital Revolution.


The Network Age, a corollary of the Information Age, both empowers all those on it and enables a constant shifting of that power, creating more independence and capability than ever before, both for those at the fringes of the network (at the bottom in the traditional power distribution) and for those at the center or top in traditional hierarchies or hubs of power.


Business in the Industrial Age was characterised by:

  • Customer value.
  • Networks.
  • Co-creation.
  • Trust.
  • Learning.
  • Conversations.
  • Autonomy and purpose. (Peter Drucker Forum)

The business world in 2016 is characterised by an unstable VUCA environment, the negative aspect of the Network Age:

V – Volatility: The nature, speed, volume, magnitude and dynamics of change.

U – Uncertainty: The lack of predictability of issues and events.

C – Complexity: The confounding of issues and the chaos that surrounds any organisation.

A – Ambiguity: The haziness of reality and the mixed meanings of conditions.


A proactive response to these negative elements of the Network Age, is a positive take on the VUCA environment, argues Michael Franks, and consists of:

V – Vision.

U – Understanding.

C – Clarity.

A – Agility.


In order to facilitate this proactive and positive reaction to a VUCA world, argues Franks, business requires learning leaders. The Learning Leader has the ability to stay flexible, grow from mistakes and handle a diverse range of challenges.


The Learning Leader exhibits the following characteristics:

V – Vision: They are a Visionary Leader. They know how to lead others with a vision, based on the company’s purpose and values, in an authentic, inspirational manner.

U – Understanding: They are a Connected Leader. They know how to build relationships, seek information, make sense of observations and share ideas through an intelligent use of new technologies. Connected Leaders master personal knowledge management. They have a continuous flow of information from their professional networks, and they seek, filter validate, sense and reflect connect the dots, and then decide where to share this information.

C – Clarity: They are a Self Leader. They have the ability to self lead by being aware of and bringing into harmony the purpose, values and vision of their personal-private and professional life.

A – Agility: They are an Agile Leader. They have the ability to adapt to constantly-changing conditions within purpose, values and vision.


“Leaders are exposed to a barrage of information daily. Always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy,” McKinsey. Leaders have a wealth of information, but a poverty of attention. Effective Learning Leaders are connected to curated learning opportunities that provide thought leadership in the moment of need.


getAbstract is a powerful tool in helping leaders to connect and learn. getAbstract is an LRMG service that provides 5-page summaries of the world’s best business books, articles, videos and economic reports and offers the largest library of summaries. The knowledge is specifically built for eLearning.


It is a curated learning opportunity that:

  • Allows leaders to seek, filter and validate in real time.
  • Helps the Agile Leader to stay alert and informed.
  • Helps the Connected Leader to build relationships and share insights rapidly.
  • Equips the Visionary Leader with accelerators to communicate a vision through case studies and abstracts.
  • Allows the Self Leaders to take ownership for development at the moment of need.
  • Allows the Learning Leader to constantly grow as daily challenges are addressed.
  • Provides curated learning paths to solve critical VUCA challenges.

getAbstract helps our clients to:

  • Promote a culture of continuous learning.
  • Develop leadership at all levels.
  • Provide thought leadership on demand.
  • Stimulate innovation.
  • Facilitate collaborative learning.



Michael Franks is Head of Business Development and Marketing: eLearning RSA at LRMG Performance Agency.

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