Are You Hiring Yesterday’s Leaders?

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FallMany of you may feel the world is becoming more chaotic, volatile, and incomprehensible. Maybe you have no real evidence for this other than a gut feeling and an increasingly fried brain at the end of the workday.

Well, as they say, great guts think alike (or is it great mind?). It seems that grand institutions like the United States military share this feeling of uncertainty and have even developed an acronym for it: VUCA. A VUCA world is one that is: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

So, you weren’t imagining it: the world really is becoming an increasingly bewildering place, and this of course includes the commercial world. With the business world becoming a more VUCA environment, it becomes increasingly important that corporate leaders be able to navigate this VUCA environment.

VUCA-capable leadership will give any company a competitive advantage, as confirmed by this DDI study, which found that organizations in the top 20 percent of high-performing companies were three times more likely to have VUCA-capable leaders.

The problem is that hiring and talent management processes are lagging behind the times and failing to prioritize VUCA hiring. A full third of HR professionals indicated that their leaders were not able to demonstrate VUCA leadership skills. Also, just 18 percent of HR professionals suggested that their leaders were very capable of leading in a VUCA environment.

It seems that many organizations may indeed be hiring yesterday’s people, in terms of leadership skill requirements. These organizations are not hiring VUCA-competent leaders, which is a terrible mistake, given the proven financial benefits of having such leaders.

This presents an opportunity for HR, recruiters, and talent strategists to start aligning their process with the modern VUCA world. In this world, leaders need to be able to demonstrate very specific qualities. These qualities are known as the  VUCA Prime model of leadership, which was developed by Bob Johansen of the Institute for Future.

In the VUCA Prime model of leadership, volatility is countered with clear vision,which steer leaders through turbulent, dynamic periods. Uncertainty can be managed with understanding of the trends and key drivers of change in a leader’s sector. Complexity can be addressed with clarity,which means being able to quickly tune out the noise, focus, and make informed decisions. Finally, leaders can combat the ambiguity of this VUCA world with agility, which is the ability to adapt, react, and evolve quickly to suit changing circumstances.

In addition to this VUCA Prime model – which should be incorporated into leadership and hiring profiles —  DDI identified four particular skills that contributed significantly to VUCA competence. These were: managing and introducing change (unsurprisingly), building consensus and commitment, inspiring others toward a vision, and leading across generations.

If you aren’t hiring leaders with a VUCA mind and skill set, you may be hiring yesterday’s people. If so, it’s time to move to a more VUCA-inspired leadership hiring process, which should lead to tangible gains in financial performance for your business — which you will of course be able to attribute to your VUCA leadership initiative.

By Kazim Ladimeji