Leadership in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous Environments

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Busch, Danny
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Volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environments require new forms of leadership that support organizational adaptiveness in the face of rapid change and complex environments. Moreover, the specific problem was the lack of empirical evidence in the application of practical and effective skills used by individuals with real world experience as actual VUCA leaders in actual VUCA circumstances with consideration to the 10 dimensions identified in Johansen's (2012) model of effective leadership. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the perspectives of top national security/defense industry leaders working globally in VUCA environments regarding the specific skills they have found effective in responding to VUCA problems. The researcher applied purposive sampling to select 12 participants from the target population composed of national security/defense industry leaders who work within VUCA environments. The primary data gathering vehicle was the individual interview ranging in length of time from 1.5 to 2 hours. Thematic analysis and comparative analysis were used to examine the data collected and to establish the study results. Results included empirical findings of the specific leadership skills most effective in actual VUCA environments within the context of the national security/defense industry as follows: (a) balancing flexibility and decisiveness; (b) top-down goal setting and facilitation; (b) multifaceted leadership development; and (d) general alignment with Johansen's 10-dimension leadership model. By increasing the understanding and application of practical leadership skills in VUCA environments, this research promotes the abilities of leaders and their organizations to a position of adaptation and thriving in a VUCA world.
leadership , volatile , uncertain , complex , ambiguous