Just like the military, the business environment can be full of uncertainty and unpredictability. The military term VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) when applied economically addresses the challenges of modern times. Volatility can be seen in the changing customer requirements and the slowly recovering economy, both of which are out of control of the leader. Uncertainty is the result of increasing globalization and legislative changes which put pressure on business. Complexity is attributed to the rapid technological innovation. It is revolutionizing the way organizations function internally and externally. Ambiguity is the divide between the retiring Baby Boomer and the rise of the millennials into tech-driven senior leadership roles. This upsets the traditional hierarchy of organizations. VUCA is the reality of business in America, and to succeed leaders can internalize more tips on how to handle themselves from the military:
- Humility- There is a lot to be said of a highly successful leader that is humble. This quality of being down to earth, grounded, and present is what separates a good leader from a great leader. A high ranking military official will have the wellbeing of his subordinates in mind and remain teachable. Ambition is a good thing, but to be able to excel and have the heart of a servant. That is a skill that takes a lifetime to master.
- Innovation- Innovation is a current buzzword and businesses love to be thought of as innovative. However, what few people realize is that a system must be in place in order for innovation to occur. The truly great companies like Apple or Facebook do not just come up with new products during flights of imagination, they work hard and iterate. For a leader to bring innovation into the ethos, there must first be a financial foundation in place. Leaders should continue to educate themselves on current best practices and explore new ways to make the status quo better.
- Connection- What inspires a man to enlist in the military and serve his country? A sense of connection to a greater cause or a belief system. Leaders must be adept at making connections with the people around them and bringing out the best in them. Neuroscience studies have found that people are driven by emotions, not logic. A true leader must be attuned to the emotional states of his subordinates, and differentiate between a right and wrong emotional state. Above all, a sense of genuine care must be present for a leader to be successful and effective.
- Knowledge- A leader gains his position on the account of experience and wisdom. It is not enough to simply “know” things, this encyclopedic approach won’t benefit the individual or the organization. Instead, the leader must know how to apply his experience in a way that will solve the problem mindfully and efficiently. A leader must develop himself by continually educating himself on the industry, leadership practices, best practices, and business affairs. The level of trust that is put upon a leader warrants that this individual will be well informed and on top of current trends.
There are some days when business seems like an art of war. Therefore, by applying military terminology such as VUCA and learning leadership practices from the military a new, confident leadership approach is formed as a result. Whether dealing with the changing business climate or technological innovation, a leadership approach that is forward thinking, full of knowledge, and humility will serve you well.