As the international environment increasingly becomes interconnected, the disruption from local, intercommunal, national and international events frequently drives instability and turbulence within the global operational environment. This turbulence impacts the full spectrum of daily life. In a world that is no longer predictable and stable, existing leadership frameworks and competencies need to be expanded with the capability to navigate chaos under stressful conditions. This chapter presents two sections: first, it examines the three layers of strategic leadership as leaders engage with the demands in a VUCA context. Second, a proposed innovative self-leadership framework with competencies and capabilities is presented to assist leaders in this new reality of leading in a chaotic and stressful environment.
At the time of this writing, the spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan in China has caused political instability and economic disruption that is testing leaders’ abilities to solve complex, wicked problems. The COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented multidisciplinary global and organizational leadership challenge that is not only hard to understand but also chaotic. However, COVID-19 has revealed that leading wicked problems that are multi-dimensional, where actions in one domain drive consequences within another with unpredictable outcomes, are creating innovative ways of leading under stressful conditions. The global pandemic shows that traditional leadership tools and frameworks that rely on predictability and certainty based on data analysis for strategic decisions are ineffective in a fluid and highly disruptive situation.
For example, President Trump enacted targeted international travel restrictions and announced that COVID-19 would have a limited health and economic impact on the United States. His actions and strategic messaging were based on predictive data analyses, yet shortly afterward, information changed along with national strategies on a daily basis. As policymakers create and announce on the management and treatment of COVID 19, the rapidly changing day-to-day information resulted in conflicting communication and distrust among leaders and the general public.
As a result, national health situation reached dangerous levels requiring personal quarantines and resulting in economic devastation. COVID 19 revealed the national, corporate, and academic leadership challenge of organizationally transforming and reshaping how to lead in this new terrain of uncertain, volatile, and complex environment. Overall, leaders have been unprepared and lack the complex problem-solving leadership capacity to strategically navigate within a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous operational environment handling.
As the international environment increasingly becomes interconnected, the disruption from local, intercommunal, national, and international events frequently drives instability and turbulence within the global operational environment. This turbulence impacts the full spectrum of daily life. In a world that is no longer predictable and stable, existing leadership frameworks and competencies need to be expanded with the ability to navigate chaos under stressful conditions.
The world that transnational institutions and business organizations operate in is swiftly changing due to global competition, technological innovation, and socio-political disruption. As a result, the challenge for strategic and operational leaders is how to lead in an ever-changing and fluid environment. Leading change in an environment of chaos and disruption is one of the most difficult leadership challenges, if not the most difficult, at the strategic and organizational levels. a leadership paradigm shift where past leadership models do not equate to future leadership effectiveness is clear.
The exploration of traditional command and control leadership models to provide different perspectives on new and different capabilities for strategic and organizational leaders will also need to be addressed.
__Zyl, E. V., Campbell, A., & Lues, L. (Eds.). (2020). Chaos is a gift? : Leading oneself in uncertain and complex environments. Knowledge Resources.