Leading Like Manwani in a VUCA World

post from Rich Wellins:

Harish Manwani, Chairman of Hindustan Unilever, just
delivered his shareholder address at the company’s 80th annual
shareholders’ general meeting. His topic: Leadership in a VUCA world.
VUCA, which may be unfamiliar to some, got its recent
origins in the military to help explain the changing nature of warfare. It has rapidly
become an acronym for our business environment.  Pronounced voo-ka, it stands for:
Volatility: where things change fast and are unpredictable.

Uncertainty: where the past is no longer a
predictor of what will come next.

Complexity: where it has become mind-boggling
to make the right decisions with all the inventing variables and sources of information.

Ambiguity: where who, what, why and when are
far harder to ascertain.

I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Manwani as part of
the judging process for CNBC’s Asian Business Leader Awards. He won that year,
hands down. I remember him telling me that he considered himself just to be a
“professional manager.”

Humble to a fault, I would label him as one of the most
successful global leaders I have ever met. I am not surprised he picked this
topic as he is charged in growing Unilever’s businesses in emerging and highly
VUCA-prone markets. He has done a masterful job.

Manwani described the role of leadership in the VUCA
world as “having a clear point of view about the future and building an
organization that can navigate towards that destination through good times, and
importantly, also in bad times.”

A good start! But we would like to explore the
relationship between VUCA and leadership in more depth. Every two years DDI measures
leadership at a massive scale in the Global Leadership Forecast surveying
leaders and HR professionals in more than 2,000 companies across 16 countries.
Like Manwani, this year our theme is Leadership in a VUCA World.

This year’s Forecast will be done in partnership with the
Conference Board. Also involved are leading HR and talent management
associations around the world including HRoot, People Matters, ASTD, The
Institute for Executive Development, Amedirh, Berlitz, HR.com, The Next Step
and Gutemberg.

A few of the questions we will answer include:
·       What
are the specific behaviors and skills that constitute a VUCA leader?

·       What
percent of the thousands of leaders who participate in our research are truly
VUCA ready?

·       And
finally, what is the relationship between a proprietary algorithm we have
developed to determine an organization’s VUCA readiness index and the
performance of their organization?

Like us, you probably have some hypotheses of you own. Participate
in The Global Leadership Forecast to learn those answers. Participate with 30
leaders from your organization and you’ll receive a special benchmarking report
to hear what your leaders candidly think about leading in a VUCA world. To take
the Global Leadership Forecast Survey visit:


To download copies of the 2011 Global Leadership
Forecast, visit:

Rich Wellins, Ph.D. is
senior vice president of 
Dimensions International 
(DDI), and is an expert on
leadership development, employee engagement and talent management. He is
responsible for launching DDI’s new products and services, leading DDI’s Center
for Applied Behavioral Research (CABER) and its major research projects and
developing and executing DDI’s global marketing strategy.