International Women’s Day 2021





Embracing the new: women leading and influencing in VUCA times

Sponsored by: The Women’s Academic Network (Bournemouth University) and the Association for Learning Developers in HE (ALDinHE)

Image shows a woman holding up her hand with the text Let's all choose to challenge

Facilitated by: Debbie Holley (Bournemouth University) Carina Buckley (Solent University) Kate Coulson (University of Northampton) and Erika Corradini (University of Southampton)

How do we move from volatile, complex, uncertain, ambiguous (VUCA) environments to the definition of a vision, to creating understanding to establishing trust and transparent processes, to building up resilience?

A group of women in leadership met to discuss these themes and joined together to lead a workshop celebrating International Womens Day 2021. Fifty-five women joined us to debate, discuss and share ideas for creating new approaches to leadership, around the question: How do we learn to lead in a VUCA world?


Ashridge management centres publications:      

Learning to lead in the 21st Century 

Five essential skills to learn in a VUCA world          

Add to the VUCA padlet

The VUCA model

VUCA is the acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity, a leadership model based on the theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus dating to the late 1980s.

Leaders are often required to navigate uncertainties, paradoxes, conflicts, pressures and ambiguities. The VUCA model calls for new approaches to management centred on developing a personal approach to leadership.

Do classical approaches to leadership work in a VUCA world? The model inspires and encourages leaders to move away from the idea of the leader who ‘knows all’ and ‘can solve all problems’ towards a vision of developmental leadership. This approach brings into focus the leader ability to develop others’ capacity to handle problems and make difficult decisions. The model is therefore based on the idea that every individual can contribute their skills and this is especially valuable in a VUCA world. The overarching aim of this approach to leadership is that of conveying positive energy into the development of meaningful approaches. The VUCA model relies on five key skills:

  • 1. developing a shared purpose
  • 2. learning agility
  • 3. self-awareness
  • 4. leading through collaboration and influence
  • 5. confidence in leading through uncertainty
  • 6. growth mind-set

In strategic terms the model means that leading in a VUCA world requires:

  • Vision
  • Understanding
  • Clarity
  • Adaptability/Agility

Get involved! How do we learn to lead in a VUCA world?

We are creating an e-zine resource with ideas to move forward.

We want your stories!

  • What are your experiences of leadership?
  • What are your ambitions?
  • What are your challenges?
  • What are your successes?

Our aim is collect case studies together in an online magazine, with as many photos of us as possible.

The deadline for contributions is 16th May 2021.

Add to the VUCA padlet

We look forward to hearing from you!

Debbie, Carina, Kate and Erica.


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