Leadership in a VUCA World That’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous

John Maeda is the keynote speaker at #naisac this week and I’m looking forward to hearing him.


Warp Speed!

He just shared this leadership chart and Linked-In article via Twitter and he “hopes it’s useful.” I think it is.

And interesting. Interesting because thinking how this applies to business-as-usual  (or not) in independent schools will take some intriguing untangling and working through.

Maeda thinks creative leadership is on the rise and is necessary in our warp speed and hyper networked world. He references the  “wirearchy” – an emerging organizing principle and way to understand what it means to live and work effectively in an interconnected, networked world.

Schools tend by default and sometimes necessity to be top-down and hierarchical. There are exceptions of course.

Leading more  from the right hand side means being not so much the conductor of the orchestra following the score but rather the membership in a jazz combo full of talented and natural improvisors. To misquote Jimmy Britton – the right side of the chart sounds more like leadership at the point of utterance and execution rather than lock-step and planned out. And that can be scary.


The VUCA World: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous

But I think we should be thinking about this stuff.

Maeda also thinks leaders need to draw on both sides of the chart. And the wisdom, of course, will come from knowing what’s needed when.

And that could well lead to some good conversations.

It’s also a reflection of the reality that – while we don’t all have to be artists and designers in any classic definition of the words – we do need to live like them. And that means always learning and being on the edge of what we don’t know; ready to step into the unknown; not unnerved by failure and ambiguity and having the capacity to bounce back with renewed energy when things go wrong.

Life in the ZPD.


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