Leadership Through VUCA


The forces of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (also known as VUCA) present constant challenges to today’s business leaders. Those who are best equipped to deal with these forces can successfully help their companies – and entire industries – not only survive but thrive in a VUCA world.

Development Dimensions International, in their 2015 Global Leadership Forecast,1 researched which industries have the best supply of leaders prepared to tackle challenges brought about by the VUCA forces. What they found was that some, dubbed “Stay the Course” industries, are heavily investing in developing their leaders to be able to respond to VUCA forces. Such industries include business services, finance, banking and insurance. Their investments seem to be paying off, as these industries have higher rankings in leadership quality and strength.

Industries that DDI classified as “Headed in the Wrong Direction” are struggling to respond to such VUCA forces as changing business environments and demographics. They are facing leadership challenges and are not investing in the strength and dynamism of their decision-makers. Such industries include manufacturing and health care, the former of which is dealing with an aging workforce and slowing growth, and the latter of which faces intense talent shortages, an aging customer base that requires greater care, and evolving government regulations. Without a change in leadership strength and development, these industries will continue to fail to face the VUCA challenges they are being presented with.

DDI’s “Many Challenges, Few Leaders” category includes industries that lack professionals prepared to lead in fast-changing, technical environments, such as the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) sectors. DDI suggests that in order to for companies in these industries to better handle the VUCA forces, they need to provide acceleration programs for leaders in their pipeline, or attract new leaders from other industries.

“Eager and Waiting Impatiently” industries such as retail and energy tend to have leadership that is increasing in strength but decreasing or not changing in quality. These industries have a sufficient supply of leaders, but they need more development to help spur innovation and creativity. 

By tackling their leadership development challenges, industries that are not meeting today’s VUCA challenges can better equip their top staff to lead their companies into the future.

1 Development Dimensions International, “2015 Global Leadership Forecast,”