Kaya Consulting

Learning Agility Part 2

Part 2: Learning agility and leadership in a VUCA world

The current environment is often described as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA).

Volatile:          Rapid shifts in key variables occur

Uncertain:       Inability to accurately assess likelihood and/or consequence of events

Complex:         Difficulty anticipating interaction effects between key variables

Ambiguous:     Lack of clarity about the meaning of events


What kind of leadership is required?

Leaders who are highly-attuned to the environment may spot early signs of change and those who are able to foresee likely consequences would be well placed to navigate problems and spot opportunities.  If leaders are also willing to be at the forefront of change, and are prepared to shift their leadership style to get the best out of their people, this combination could capitalise on opportunities that will arise in a VUCA world.

Certain leadership characteristics would seem important for success in a VUCA world.


Learning agility in a VUCA world

Learning agility has a strong relationship with both leadership performance and leadership potential.

When mapped against the demands of a VUCA world, the seven facets of learning agility are well aligned with the leadership behaviours likely to be effective in this environment.

Interpersonal Acumen

Understanding others and being able to work well with a diversity of people, instilling confidence and using others constructively to accomplish goals.

In a VUCA world, successful leaders understand and embrace the different perspectives and approaches in their team, recognising this gives a unique competitive advantage. They apply this deep knowledge to leverage existing team capabilities and adapt their own style to get the best from each person.


Cognitive Perspective

Conceptualising issues differently, examining problems from a high level, unique and strategic perspective.

In a VUCA world, successful leaders enjoy working with complexity, conceptualising the ways in which multiple variables may interact with each other.


Environmental Mindfulness

Being fully observant of one’s environment, attentive to changing conditions and approaching in a non-judgmental manner, and regulating one’s emotions effectively.

In a VUCA world, successful leaders monitor the environment closely, mindful that conditions will change quickly and unexpectedly.


Drive to Excel

Motivated by challenge, seeking difficult assignments, resourceful, and getting things done.

In a VUCA world, successful leaders set ambitious goals and drive for them, undeterred by uncertainty or ambiguity



Understanding oneself accurately, one’s capabilities, weaknesses, beliefs, values, and personal goals.

In a VUCA world, successful leaders recognise that greater self-knowledge allows them to lead more effectively. More effective leadership equals more effective outcomes.


Change Alacrity

Curious, eager to learn, open-minded to new situations, and continually seek innovative (at time risky) approaches to perform.

Successful leaders recognise that a VUCA world offers opportunities for those able to quickly develop new solutions to meet new needs.


Feedback Responsiveness

Actively soliciting and accepting feedback, contemplating its merits, and taking corrective actions.

In a VUCA world, leadership needs to keep pace with external change. Successful leaders recognise that feedback is the best tool to become a more effective leader.


In Part 3, we will look at the application of learning agility to leadership selection and development.


Further information

The TALENTx7 Assessment® is a comprehensive measure of learning agility. For more information on the TALENTx7 and how it can benefit your organisation, contact Stephen Macdonald for an informal discussion (Stephen@thekayagroup.com).