Do you know anyone who operates in an everyday normal state of PANIC where EVERYTHING is touted as mission critical urgent and you can’t really tell what is truly important? Reminds me a little bit of the children’s story about CHICKEN LITTLE who constantly ran around shouting … THE SKY IS FALLING! Well, one of the dynamics of this VUCA world we are all experiencing is that quite often it can seem like the SKY IS FALLING multiple times every day. No doubt the speed of play today is daunting and can feel like a locust storm inside a massive F5 TORNADO with wind speeds over 250 mph and where cars become projectiles as they are hurled through the air; entire houses are completely destroyed after being ripped from the foundation and sent tumbling into the distance; steel-reinforced concrete structures can be seriously damaged. Did you ever have a day like that? I have a couple of clients where that seems to be the everyday normal.
What is the leadership challenge like in those LEVEL 5 VUCA environments? I can tell you it is extraordinarily important for sure because teams, customers and even families depend on these leaders finding the strength, courage, grittiness and core value system to stand tall and hold onto the helm in the midst of this maelstrom. True leadership agility comes through in a really big premium way as the environmental context gets crazy. The crazier the environment – the more valuable it is to have leaders who can help guide the team to anticipate change, generate and re-generate confidence, initiate action on doing the right things, liberate thinking to find new solutions to evolving challenges and all the time continuously evaluating results to calibrate and re-calibrate what is delivering on the team success value proposition.
One of the few TV shows I enjoy watching when I can these days is called CODE BLACK. The setting for CODE BLACK is the world’s busiest emergency room in Los Angeles where there is a daily barrage of life threatening challenges presented in overload fashion to an under-staffed and normally overwhelmed team. In the midst of this chaos, there are several real leaders demonstrating some of the best attributes of leadership agility … one called Momma (a male nurse) and another called Papa (a female head of emergency room staff). This is the essence of operating room TRIAGE mentality where you really must have great CLARITY about key operating principles that will either lead to success (health) or failure (death). It is a very consequential environment for sure.
I love working with my clients and their teams to help SHAPE THE FUTURE which in large measure means … how do we create healthy, vibrant and fit teams that are focused, fast and flexible enough to create a differential advantage in how they become the first choice to fulfill their customer’s needs. When you are focused on a clear vision – your real mission critical obstacles become very clear. It’s like the old southern adage – when the water level is low, the stumps will show. Real leaders help their teams see the important stumps and have the poise and composure to plot a systematic and sensible plan to go after the critical issues in the right sequence and pace. It is those leaders that try and do everything at once in total urgency who end up creating the real chaos and burning out the team. The best of the leaders I see, recognize that one of the mission critical priorities … is the team themselves and their well-being.
I look forward to your comments, feedback and further dialogue. Please come join us down at the Human Capital Institute Summit in New Orleans March 29-30 … we can continue the conversation there.
Tom O’Shea, CMC