VUCA is a term first used by the US military to express their view of the world. It was adopted by the US Government and business community after 7/11. The term is now widely used by leaders of organisations in the private and public sector to reflect the chaotic, turbulent and rapidly changing world we live in.
Whether it is increasingly frequent severe weather, leaps in technology or financial crisis we need leaders and managers who are equipped for an uncertain future.
These are uncertain times for Public Sector managers. The job you are doing now will not be the job you are doing in 2 or 3 years time. The pace of change is getting faster and leaders need to be equipped to keep up..
Leadership skills are even more relevant in a harsh financial climate when managers are required to do more with less, to increase their spans of responsibility, to negotiate new ways of working and to keep partners on board when their instincts are to retreat to their core business.
Public sector organisations require leadership development programmes which aim to develop people with transferable leadership skills, people who have the confidence and ability to move from one service to another, people who are equipped for a fast changing and uncertain future.
To equip leaders for an uncertain future we will need to change the emphases from professional expertise to management competence. Managers will be expected to show leadership skills, to take responsibility and be able to inspire their staff. This will be a real challenge during a time of restructuring, job losses and pay freezes. A challenge made all the more difficult as managers themselves face an uncertain future as organisation seek to cut costs by cutting management posts.
Yet there will be no big training budget for expensive leadership development and what funds there are cannot be spent on a lucky few when the organisation needs all managers to be equipped as leaders.. This means leaders and aspiring leaders will have to take a lot more responsibility for their own development. We are already seeing a growth in the use of management learning sets and mentoring as these provide a cost effective way of supporting and developing large numbers of managers. Through learning sets and mentoring managers can explore a range of typical management issues, think about how their behaviour affects others and identify the type of leadership behaviour their organisation is seeking to encourage. They can also receive support from managers who have already been through a restructuring, dealt with the fallout from redundancies and addressed issues of team moral as staff are forced to compete for posts in the new structure.
Leadership development will be less about acquiring qualifications and more about the benefits to the organisation, less academic and more focused on life as a manager at a time of budget cuts, services reductions and redundancies. The aim to, encourage creative thinking and innovation, to give managers the support and confidence to keep staff motivated, keep customers satisfied and keep going in a climate of austerity and uncertainty.
Blair McPherson is author of Equipping Managers for an Uncertain published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk