What the New Normal Means for Leadership Practices

Four unprecedented challenges define the New Normal ─ Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. They require step-change advances in leadership practices.

What the New Normal Means for Leadership Practices_LelandRussell.com

A Perfect Storm

In October 1991, there was a ‘perfect storm’ in the north Atlantic. A buoy off the coast of Nova Scotia reported a wave height of over 100 feet, the highest ever recorded in the province’s offshore waters. In the middle of the storm, a fishing boat, the Andrea Gail, sank, killing her crew of six. This tragedy inspired the book, The Perfect Storm, which later became a movie.

What caused this biological disaster? There was a collision of warm air from a low-pressure system and cool, dry air generated by a high-pressure system, compounded by tropical moisture delivered by a hurricane.

VUCA_The Perfect Storm of New Normal_LelandRussell.com The New Normal for Leadership Practices 

Today, a different kind of ‘perfect storm’ has arrived: a world of VUCA.

Volatility: Because change happens simultaneously in different sectors, in different forms, and at different rates, conditions are far from stable. They are fluid and fluctuate to extremes.

Uncertainty: Analyzing past data and current trends to forecast future events is problematic. It’s unwise to rely on any one individual’s forecasting abilities, no matter their credentials.

Complexity: Our current reality has many varied parts, patterns, and elements. The complexity is compounding for many reasons, such as accelerating social change, the technology tsunami, and political paralysis.

Ambiguity: Situations are often open to more than one interpretation. Discernment is difficult when facts are fuzzy. Because everything is more interconnected than ever before, there is often cause-and-effect confusion.

Like the ‘perfect storm’ of 1991, the New Normal is driven by a colossal collision of forces.

Economic Shocks — Unexpected financial events that dramatically impact markets can have rapid ripple effects and aftershocks worldwide.

Global Competition — It’s no longer predictable in time, place, or specifics. It’s growing geometrically and decreasing the lifespan of businesses.

Advancing Technology — It’s turbocharging communications, blurring geographic boundaries, and enabling instantaneous mobility of capital.

Disruptive Innovations — They can appear seemingly overnight and endanger a long-successful business or make an entire industry obsolete.

Political Paralysis — Politics have polarized and there are no winners. All sides reach for rhetorical extremes and nothing seems to gets done.

Cyber Threats — Cybercriminals are increasingly aggressive in their stealth strategies. In 2016, ransomware attacks increased by well over 100X.

Climate Change — Extreme weather is one of the many implications of climate change. One major magazine summed up the extreme weather escalation with an article entitled, “Weather Panic – This is the New Normal and We Are Hopelessly Unprepared.”

Terrorism — Violent extremism is on the rise with many channels for propaganda dissemination that exacerbate the psychological impact of any terrorist event.

Information Shelf Life — Information is now like a quickly perishable food. Use it or lose it because its shelf life is extremely short.

Trust, Loyalty, Confidence — These three social emotions are on an ever-deeper downward trajectory with many implications, none good.

Evolving Business Models — While challenging, the New Normal has wide open windows of opportunity for new ways to deliver greater value at lower cost.

VUCA PERFECT STORM_A Colossal Collision of Change Forces_LelandRussell.com

Unprecedented Leadership Challenges

The New Normal has spawned unprecedented leadership challenges. Consider these statistics regarding strategy, focus, speed, and engagement:

  • Over 80% of organizations fail to execute their strategies effectively; CEOs from 40 countries rate “Execution” as their #1 concern.
  • 67% of leaders say capabilities don’t fully support their strategy; 52% are not confident in their company’s strategy.
  • 90% of senior leaders agree that speed is critical to success, but only 40% say that they are moving fast enough.
  • 50% lower operating profit is the result when organizations are outpaced by their competitors.
  • Only 33% of employees are engaged in their job and 51% are looking for a new job.

What Are the Implications?

One thing is certain. The timeless fundamentals of leadership are more important than ever, but step-change improvements in collaborative leadership practices are needed.

Working closely many exceptional leaders as a strategic advisor has helped me understand what those practices should be. I’ve condensed the critical core into The GEO Cardinal Rules  nine essential leadership practices for sustaining success. Click here for an overview.

These practices are now an integral part of a powerful strategic action system developed by my firm, GEO Group Strategic Services. The GEO System™ is a seamless set of principles, processes, and virtual tools. It helps leaders achieve faster, better strategy, focus, speed, and engagement with Click here for an overview.


If you’d like to explore how we might help you meet your challenges with The GEO Cardinal Rules™  and The GEO System™, Let’s Connect.

About Leland Russell

Leland Russell accelerates strategic action with GEO Leadership™ principles, processes, and virtual tools. He is the creator of The GEO Paradigm™ and co-author of Winning In FastTime®. GEO Group Strategic Services, the firm he founded, has a stellar performance track record with Fortune 500 organizations, mid-size firms, and non-profits. Leland writes regularly about how leaders can thrive in the New Normal on his website — www.LelandRussell.com.

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