why leaders need to think differently to succeed in 2021 

How traditional linear-thinking is limited in a VUCA context

In the past, leaders were able to predict outcomes based on a linear model of growth - double your production line, get twice as many products, for example. Yet, the world around us is no longer working quite in this way. UGM Consulting, our partners, have long been championing new leadership strategies for a more complex world.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought this home, in mainly unwelcome ways. The exponential spread of the virus has shown all too clearly how (in)action is not always proportionate to impact. Looking ahead, all leaders must consider what ‘build back better’ will look like for their organisation. And how a host of other factors, not least Brexit, will interplay with the longer-term changes brought by the pandemic.

UGM Consulting describe this as a VUCA world - volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This highly regarded global leadership consultancy have devised our Getting to the C-Suite Leadership programme which shares techniques to succeed in a VUCA context, updated for March 2021 to reflect the Covid-19 pandemic. Here we explain a little more about the implications of a VUCA environment for senior leaders and strategic thinking: 

Volatility in 2021

Volatility is about change in the system - both the rate of change and its impact. Whereas yesterday’s wisdom may suggest thorough analysis of a full set of data, today we know that much of that data could be out-of-date before that analysis is complete. New decision-making models are needed to prevent 'analysis paralysis' and allow leaders to continue moving their organisations forward in these times.


Look back to 2020, who could have predicted toilet paper sales would be so heavily impacted by the spread of a respiratory illness? One of the big uncertainties that lies ahead is how far and how fast a mass vaccination will return life to ‘normal’. Leaders will need to change management strategies that approach change as a constant, not a one-off event.

Ambiguity abounds

Can remote working be sustained in the long-term? How will the service-based sector be impacted by Brexit? Should retail centres diversify in case consumer demand remains in online commerce?  Different opinions abound, yet leaders need strategic models which can chart a course with few hard facts. 

Complexity - an unintended positive?

The pandemic is a complex system. Brexit is a complex political process. Hopefully, one outcome of the ubiquity of the experience will be to demonstrate how rational, linear thinking can fall short. Certainly, we can expect some companies that continue to rely on it exclusively will fall by the way-side.

Instead, those leaders who succeed will require non-linear approaches - and can use them to thrive, not just survive our VUCA world.

>> Discover how our Getting to the C-Suite leadership programme can equip you for a VUCA context >> Register for our free webinar on Monday 15th February (recording available).

>> Find out more about Getting to the C-Suite and join our March 2021 cohort.