26 August 2020 | Story Nitha Ramnath | Photo Supplied

A VUCA environment reflects a state of the external world, or external to the leader, community, or nation, as much as it seems to reflect an internal frame of mind. The constant pressure to lead, while being uncertain about the outcomes of your decisions and even fearful of not being in control all the time, are some of the hallmarks of a VUCA world. A good way of thinking about this concept is to view it as the ‘new narrative’ – the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity inherent in today’s world.

Leaders in the 21st century need to steer a country securely through unparalleled, challenging, and stormy circumstances such as food insecurity, political unrest, migration and refugee issues, unemployment, divided societies and prejudice, global warming, and others. Against this introduction, it unfortunately appears as if there is an increase in VUCA problems in the 21st century, and leaders often fail in their attempts to provide solutions to these demanding circumstances. Indeed, it appears as if leaders in the 21st century are actually contributing to VUCA environments. So-called ‘state capture’ and the ‘gangster state’ in South Africa, ‘make America great again’ and ‘America first’ , the Brexit no-deal option, ‘trade wars’, and ‘the deadly coronavirus’ are examples of when leaders did not appear to solve challenges, but rather to intensify them. 

This is the backdrop against which the book, Chaos is a Gift? Leading Oneself in Uncertain and Complex Environments, has been conceptualised – indeed to debate the opportunities that exist amid this chaos. 

Three UFS women academics contributed to this book.

Dr Martha Harunavamwe (Department of Industrial Psychology) has written a chapter on resilience and agility in Zimbabwean higher education.Dr Mareve Biljohn (Department of Public Administration and Management) has written a chapter on leading the self in South Africa’s VUCA local government environments. Prof Liezel Lues (Department of Public Administration and Management) has written a chapter on South Africa’s surviving VUCA environment. She is also one of the editors of the book.

The endorsement written by Prof Petersen, reads: There are various books on leadership, but this book, in navigating today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, presents chaos as both an opportunity and possibility in developing ‘selfcare practices’ in leading oneself. Leaders must have the cognitive flexibility to adapt to the unknown in the midst of chaos (and a crisis). Through making sense of leadership approaches in different environments, including the business, private, academic and public sectors, as well as in conflict/post-conflict situations, the book provides a deep insight into leading oneself effectively with innovation and empathy in a VUCA environment – an excellent contribution to self-leadership. (Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor: Top Management, University of the Free State)

The book, published by KR Publishers, will be launched on 27 August 2020. Prof Ebben van Zyl, together with Prof Lues, are the editors of this book: Van Zyl, E, Campbell, A and Lues, L. ed. Chaos is a Gift? Leading Oneself in Uncertain and Complex Environments. Randburg: KR Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-86922-860-6

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