The VUCA Masters™ Series — The Tracy Edwards Story

VUCA Master. Tracy Edwards is a VUCA Master. She represents the first in a series of VUCA Master stories which are intended to help all leaders effectively demonstrate leadership agility fitness regardless of the disruptive VUCA they face. Edwards demonstrated her ability to master the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) experienced during a global yachting competition.

My forthcoming book, The VUCA Masters: Developing Leadership Agility Fitness for a New World of Work, profiles other examples of VUCA Masters and provides a navigational plan to support the development Leadership Agility Fitness. VUCA, a term developed by the US Army, refers to an operating environment that is constantly changing in conflicting, dramatic, and relentless ways resulting in leadership and organizational challenges. As we continue wrestling with the COVID-19 Pandemic, I hope you can apply what you learn from The VUCA Masters series.

Edwards’ VUCA Challenges. In 1989, Edwards and her crew faced many challenges that represent the context for organizational leadership today — relentless changes in the business environments in which they operate. The diversity, intensity, and rapidity of VUCA can challenge leaders on ways to lead effectively during a turbulent environment. Edwards set her sights on a yachting competition, the Whitbread Round the World Race (now known as the Ocean Race), which takes place over nine months and more than 30,000 miles. In addition to the challenges of round-the-world ocean racing, it is very expensive with yachts easily costing more than $1 million. Prior to Edwards and her team, the race was populated by men. The 26-year-old yacht captain, Tracy Edwards, was able to recruit a dozen capable women to join her, along with King Hussein of Jordan to sponsor her team.

The documentary combines archival footage from the race and one-on-one interviews with crew members describing their experiences surviving enormous waves in the Southern Ocean, competing against mostly all-male crews and the daily challenges of sharing such tight quarters. 

VUCA Master Capabilities — Read the brief information in this article and watch the Trailer to the “Maiden” Documentary which will encourage you to watch the entire “Maiden” Documentary. Consider how Edwards demonstrated Leadership Agility (as defined by the following Leadership Agility behaviors):

  1. Anticipate Change — Identifies future patterns and trends that would impact goal achievement.
  2. Generate Confidence — Creates an environment of engagement and collaboration of all stakeholders involved in executing the plan.
  3. Initiated Action — Demonstrated preemptive behavior in all situations.
  4. Liberates Thinking — Creates an environment where innovation was welcomed.
  5. Evaluate Results — Assesses the impact of actions on goals and identifies any corrective action needed.

VUCA Master Webinar — Consider scheduling a webinar with your team to view the “Maiden” Documentary, discuss how Tracy Edwards demonstrated Leadership Agility Fitness and plan how the Leadership Agility Fitness capabilities can be assessed and developed within your organization. Here is a very brief Leadership Agility Fitness video that can help accelerate your journey to become a VUCA Master.

Nick Horney, Ph.D.
Nick Horney, Ph.D.

Dr. Horney founded Agility Consulting and Training in 2001 and has been recognized for innovations in organizational and leadership agility, including the global standard for leadership agility — The AGILE Model®. He is often quoted in journals such as People& Strategy and CIO Magazine, books — Rothwell, et. al’s Human Resource Transformation (2008) and organizations and professional associations such as the American Management Association, Project Management Institute (PMI), IBN International and Human Resource People and Strategy.   

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