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How to lead in a VUCA world...

We live in a world of such phenomenal opportunity. Never before has there been so much opportunity for those brave enough to open their minds and grab what is available.

Our Digital Age has brought so much excitement and change that those willing to adapt and operate in different ways will achieve so much for themselves, their family and society.

Over the past 26 years I’ve had the privilege to work with and develop well over 85,000 leaders from some of the best organisations in the world.

Being trusted to do such great work has been an amazing and humbling experience that has enabled me to really get to the heart of leadership and learn the challenges we all face. It’s enabled me to discover what works and what doesn’t!

More than ever we need a new breed of leaders. 

As Seth Godin once said,


We need leaders who can inspire action whilst being comfortable with an ever increasing pace of change. 

We need leaders who thrive on volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. 

Our world is changing fast. There’s a digital tidal wave sweeping through organisations and it’s driving massive change and chaos. It’s bringing massive ambiguity and confusion of how best to lead and drive for success.

VUCA World Graham Wilson

My leadership work is an attempt to decode what GREAT leadership looks like going forward and teach new ways of leading in today’s digital world. I’m more interested in what will work now and in the future.

Sure, there are many lessons from the past but to be successful we need to work out what will work going into the unknown!.

Leadership is contextual so it’s important to look at leadership through the lens of the world we live in today. It’s also important to develop your way of leading. There’s no cookie cutter answers, it’s all about a lifetime of learning and applying!

We need leaders who can understand and anticipate the external business environment, the organisation itself and what strategy really looks like in today’s world and then choose to use the right behaviours to achieve success. 

The digital revolution is not really a technology problem, it is a cultural opportunity.

The New Leadership Manifesto Graham Wilson

Leaders need to craft solutions and create a high-performance culture where success is inevitable.

Leaders need to develop teams who can launch ambitious experiments and quickly take learnings on board. For their part, boards and executives must raise their comfort level as regards to uncertainty, ambiguity and risk.

It means that Digitalisation is about continuous leadership of change not change management.

In the pre-digital world, a one-off change management programme could pay dividends for years if not decades. Not anymore. Directors and executives must ensure that the will and ability to continuously change are built into the very fabric of the organisation.

Many organisations have realised that employee engagement is key. Even more so in our digital world. Digitisation is all about people in the end.

People want more empowerment, autonomy and ownership rather than to follow instructions. Customers want to participate in the marketing and development process; and leaders are finding that open and agile organisations are able to manoeuvre more effectively than organisations where all insight and direction comes from the top.

The autocratic command and control structure is just too slow and will not be tolerated by the younger generations. The puzzle is that we still need control but in a different way – a way that we weren’t educated or developed in.

How do you tell if you are a great leader or a bad leader?

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Clearly this is just my view. What do you think a great leader does?

How do you compare to the best leaders today?  Find out here: Leadership Quiz. 

Pulling it all together

We need more leaders who are compassionate, kind, caring and supportive.

In a tough environment you need leaders who can be sensitive to the well-being of their teams.

When the pressure is on, it's important to be able to spot any changes in behaviour and stress levels so that you can offer support when needed.

Let's face it we all need support from time to time.

We need leaders who are less judgmental and can use empathy and take the right action based on the context and situation.

Let's be clear, compassionate leadership is not about being soft. It's about creating a high challenge AND high support environment.

I see many organisations creating a high challenge - low support context and then wonder why people don't perform at their best.

Let's get out there and be more compassionate. The results may astound you!

Remember, we live in a world of such phenomenal opportunity. Never before has there been so much opportunity for those brave enough to open their minds and grab what is available. 

Let's go and grab it!

What are you doing to actively promote a positive culture?

If you are intrigued and want to delve deeper in your understanding and find out how you stack up against great leaders, join us at our Leadership Athlete Masterclass. We'll uncover the secrets to success, learning from people who have achieved winning results in the past.

About the author

Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson

I enjoy and specialise in teaching leadership skills, how to create winning strategies, how to build high performance cultures. Outcomes and results are the most important measures for me!