7 Essential Skills For The VUCA world Suman June 17, 2020

7 Essential Skills For The VUCA world

We are truly going through unprecedented times. And the kind of jobs and skills we will need in the future are going to be different. We are in the midst of one of the worst economic recessions due to Covid. 

The world is truly VUCA now! 


This term was first used in 1987 and is based on the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus. You can learn more about its origins here

VUCA is an acronym. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

VOLATILITY – Volatility is the speed of change in an industry, market or the world in general.

The speed of change makes it unpredictable and unstable.

UNCERTAINTY– Uncertainty refers to the extent to which we can confidently predict the future. Past experiences don’t apply anymore. It is hard to anticipate events and hence impossible to plan.

COMPLEXITY – Complexity refers to the number of factors that we need to take into account, their variety and the relationships between them. The more varied they are, the more complex the situation.

A situation that has many variables and hence leads to complexity, making it hard to make decisions.

AMBIGUITY: Ambiguity refers to a lack of clarity about how to interpret something. An ambiguous situation is such because causal relationships between incidents are unclear. 

This article from Forbes throws more light on the concept

Put all these together and we need a lot of new skills to survive in the new world. 

Here are a few important ones:


A team of people who meet regularly on zoom need a different kind of leader.

Remote management is a key skill now. Being available to your team and bringing out their best is an important job for a leader, especially in current times.

Decision making becomes harder as a leader given that the situation is ambiguous and volatile. So that’s one more thing to deal with

Able leadership is a key skill in the VUCA world

During the lockdown we also saw team members working alone at home. Keeping teams motivated at a such a time is also a key job of the leader in an organisation.

Remote management, decision making and motivation of teams are some of the key skills expected of leaders in current times 


Setting up home offices, co-ordinating virtual meetings, working on our online presence and upping our communication game have been a few challenges in recent times. 

From 5 year old toddlers to CEOs, everyone had to get tech savvy overnight. It has to be more critical if you run a business of your own. 

A must have detail in every business call is the online platform we could use for a session.

Does Zoom work for you or are you used to something else?

There are different tools that we’ve explored and learnt about depending on what our company policy permits or the client’s. We’ve all sat through demo meetings to try out the apps.

In fact, Zoom never saw it coming and they had to very quickly scale and make it safe for people use their app.


We’ve always taken work from home with a pinch of salt. But the lockdown left us with no other option. And we’ve had to work around it.

While my nieces aged 10 and 13 have seamlessly moved to online classes, I have been trying out spaces at home to see where is it most well-lit!

Another factor is working from home which changes the way we are used to communicating at work.

There is no walking across to your colleague in the next cabin for a chat. 

You’ll have to co-ordinate on email or messages to find the right time to get on a video call on Zoom or other apps.

Even from a social angle, we are all islands. There are no lunches together or after office parties to revel in. This can get stressful at times.

One of  ways to deal with this and feel a sense of togetherness, we see some teams post their home office pictures on Linkedin.

We need to find ways to cope with all this. Develop hobbies, have some time out for self-care and catch up with friends on phone or video calls. Ironic but at least it gets us to talk to more people than we can meet in person.


Flexibility is one of the key skills that has emerged in the modern times – and more so since the Covid pandemic.

Jobs for life is no longer a concept. Even skills for life has become an obsolete concept.

Our work places have changed. And we’ve had to adapt to the new styles and environments of working.

The 5-year horizon doesn’t work anymore. If you ask me, a one-year plan is good enough for now since the uncertainly and volatility is likely to continue for the rest of the year, at least.

So how do we become flexible?

Keep an open mind – that’s the first tip.

Listen to other people, do your own research and figure out what aligns with your core values. Your values are your best guide to decide the future course of action.

Things may change but may still give you scope to adhere to your core beliefs.

Also, stay calm and optimistic. Times change – for better or for worse. Wait and watch. Getting flustered isn’t going to get you anywhere.

Add to your skills while you are waiting.

Tons of people made use of the lockdown to add to their skills. And with so many  online platforms, there is no dearth of skills to choose from.


Another key skill to tide through tough times.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back in times of adversity. It is being able to cope well with the ups and downs of life and emerge stronger from.

Self-awareness is a simple way to develop resilience. Don’t let things get to you.

Be mindful of your thoughts. Try and be positive and give importance to self-care in touch times.

Here are 5 way to build resilience at work from the Harvard Business Review.


The best companies respond well to tough times through creativity.

Mercedes went from manufacturing racing cars to making breathing aids in response to the situation.

As individuals, we need to take stock of the transferable skills we have in order to cope with changing situations. We also have competencies which can be put to use innovatively.

Take a skills and values inventory that you have a plan your way ahead.


As a skills trainer, I can see the way our communication styles have changed since the lockdown.

We are forced to translate our soft skills to suit the 13-inch screen we are boxed in.

Skills like voice modulation and hand gestures have acquired a new importance to be effective online.

Email writing is making an active comeback. I conducted a poll on Linkedin and a majority agreed that emails have become important in times of remote working.

I covered a whole lot of tips to become effective in virtual communication here.

While this is a short list of key skills that we need to successfully manage and emerge victorious in the new world we are forced into due to the pandemic.

What are the other skills you’d like to add to this list?

Are there skills that you’ve had to work on to get through this phase?

Tell me in the comments and share them with the other readers.