I was recently reminded of a borrowed military concept popularised in business leadership strategy called VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This concept was introduced by the US Military as the Cold War ended changing the global landscape from being predominantly bilateral into becoming multilateral. It shifted the mindset from perceiving threats symmetrically into being prepared for any asymmetrical attack. Military strategist had to rethink on preparedness in responding to an emerging future that presented greater volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – a VUCA world.
Essentially the emerging environment was calling for responses that are quick, involving effective leadership and decision making. Military strategist observed that in an emerging volatile world, the speed of change becomes increasingly unpredictable. The bilateral landscape fell apart raising the lack of predictability in issues and events. The multilateral landscape presented complexity because of possible competing agendas and perplexing issues. Situations were predicted to become ambiguous resulting from mixed signals received from the conditions at hand.
This articulation of the emerging landscape by military strategist is essentially recounting the spiritual realisation made by ancient seers thousands of years ago – Viveka – discrimination of the permanent and impermanent. VUCA seen in spirituality is really just the different aphorism of change.
Unless you can observe the changing from the unchanging, you will remain confused and volatile. In confusion, there is uncertainty and lack of awareness, fuelling complexity to the situation. In complexity, reality becomes distorted, giving rise to ambiguity.
In business, without observing the changing from the unchanging, you lack awareness to the situation and unable to articulate a vision. Without a vision, you lack the ability to communicate effectively and build trust. Without trust, there is no sense of belonging. Without a sense of belonging, you are unable to connect with others and get commitment to go specific. Without getting specific, you cannot execute and effect change.
In your life, without being able to observe the changing from the unchanging, you lack clarity and remain volatile. In volatility, your emotions are agitated, creating a sense of urgency and doubt. In doubt, you lose trust in yourself. The sense of belonging and responsibility to the situation ferments into blame and the lack of responsibility. Losing influence on the situation, chaos arises, clouding better judgments and commitment, leading to a spiralling ambiguity.
Having awareness and a sense of responsibility counters the volatility.
Trust and courage that overcomes uncertainty and complexities, can only come with self-clarity and clarity of the moment.
Ambiguity dissolves in Self-Knowledge.
Seeing the patterns and making the appropriate responses is just an ancient spiritual practice.
Indeed the cradle of leadership is in spirituality.