Holding each other in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment.

This week we are hosting our first ‘Leadership (R)evolution’ session. An opportunity for leaders from across the sector to think, learn and discuss together what it means to lead in an uncertain world and what happens in our brains during stressful periods of uncertainty.

The last few years have seen change on top of change, and this week is no exception, as we see national political events unfold at pace. Let’s be honest, its unsettling to say the least, but when these events are layered on top of our collective experience of the Covid 19 pandemic, the combined stress pushes many of us to the edges of our resilience.

Whilst change has been a constant throughout our existence, the level of volatility and complexity feels like it is ever increasing. For many a state of flux has now replaced the sense of certainty, stability and familiarity that people were used to. This type of environment can be described using the "VUCA" acronym, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It’s a term that originated from the US military, but now has relevance in all our lives.

For many of us VUCA is showing up every day, as we try to navigate how to keep up with paying the bills, renegotiating the mortgage or feeding the kids. If you are managing an organisation, it might be responding to operational challenges with fluctuating staffing levels or applying for emergency grants to support those struggling. As a result of the flux we can find ourselves in constant response mode and have little head room to think strategically or even rationally. Navigating this level of complexity, whilst trying to simply keep going can leave many of us in a state of overwhelm.

In our session this week we’ll be exploring the impact living in a VUCA world can have, especially what happens to our brains when we are under stress. We’ll discuss how can we support each other and regulate the stress that can arise when we experience overwhelm, recognising that there is healthy stress that can propel us into action, and there is toxic stress which can result in people disassociating. As humans we are not born to regulate stress, but we are born to connect with others who can help us to regulate stress - It’s called co-regulation. As human beings, we need people around us to do this. However, the neuroscience suggests that during collective trauma and social thinning* maintaining relationships can be demanding and effortful. It’s easy to relate to, as we have all been in situations when we have been overwhelmed by events, resulting in choosing to hibernate, mindlessly scrolling through social media, rather than heading out to meet a friend for a chat, yet it’s the meeting with other people that helps us maintain a healthy brain.

There are no simple answers but coming together with others to explore the possibilities will help us all make meaning of the context we find ourselves in, through which we can find creative and inspiring ways to thrive in a VUCA environment.

If you want to join this conversation with other leaders, then more details can be found at https://kca.training/leadership-revolution

*Abuse and neglect in childhood can lead to reduced social support over time – even into adulthood. We call this social thinning. Changes in the threat, reward, and memory systems may make harder for people to build and maintain relationships.