Leadership In A VUCA World Recap

The weather was showing off all its thunderous and rainy prowess. One would have a sufficient reason to remain in the convenience of their home. Nevertheless, devoted AWiBers have showed up with their ever fervent zeal yet gain. Not just members, new faces are evidently observable. What must it be that has pulled them for their corners?

Today’s theme revolves around “Leadership in a VUCA World”. Many would be perplexed by the term “VUCA”, let alone know what leading a world as such entails. The COVID pandemic led to a renewed understanding of this phrase, which had been initially accepted in the late 1980s to reflect the realities of the end of the Cold War.  

Change, ironically being the most constant phenomenon, is the future smirking back at the uncertainty it holds, problems aligned like dominoes consumed by the desire to flaunt the havoc they can create. We are all either on stand-by or being tossed by the ocean. With all these veiling our awaiting success, how do we get past them and shake hands with our success?

Whether primarily familiar of this topic or not, these proactive leaders have arrived today be it on heels or boots. The networking ritual commenced and guests holding similar color paper gather around their tables whilst discussing questions placed in front of them.  With the cessation of the networking session, the guests made their way to the hall and their seats. AWiB president Samrawit Meressa took the stage shortly after and gave the customary introduction about AWiB. This is for the new comers to be familiar with AWiB, the opportunities it provides and the countless activities with immense amount of lessons that are made available to enhance leadership skills.

The esteemed sponsors were introduced thereafter; Enat Bank’s representative walked gracefully with her traditional Ethiopian dress ornamented by a pattern calligraphy of the word “እናት” to the stage and promoted her company. Subsequently, Expert Medicare, Jacaranda Tours and Gesha Village Coffee Estate’s representatives advertised their companies of wonders one after the other.

Samrawit then presented Kidist Gebreamlak as our moderator. Co-founder and CEO of Zero-One Zero-One PLC and the Senior Center Manager of the Center for Innovative Drug Development and Therapeutic Trials for Africa (CDT Africa), Kidist is a strategic, emphatic woman who is driven to unleash the unrealized potential of African women and youth as innovative change makers. Having expressed how connected she felt to the topic of discussion, “Leadership in a VUCA World”. Kidist spoke of how, as leaders, we are expected to thrive in this inevitable reality, be it on an individual or international level. She then warmly welcomed our speakers, whom she thought were the ideal choice as they would speak from their own experiences and walks of life rather than merely possessing a superficial understanding.

Addis Alemayehou, founder & Chairman of Kazana Group, founder & CEO of 251 Communications, co-founder of KANA TV, a driven, motivated, and inventive individual enthusiastic about fostering Ethiopia’s innovative youth; Hikmet Abdella, Director General of Accounting and Auditing Board of Ethiopia (AABE) and founder of the Women Entrepreneurs Group (WEG) that later became the current African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Ethiopia Charter who has a reputation for wielding significant power throughout her career; and finally Rahel Boon–Dejene, an Ethiopian-born Dutch social entrepreneur who serves as a founder and managing director of R&D Group in Ethiopia and RBD Consultancy in the Netherlands, aims at helping visionary young professionals by establishing job opportunities, cultivating interpersonal skills, and encouraging entrepreneurship.

Kidist began the initial inquiries in regard to how they define and grasp the term VUCA and a world as such with these visitors who have more in store than the tiny amount said.

Majority of the speakers were not familiar to the term VUCA. After conducting their investigations, they made a parallel conclusion in the sense that VUCA is a widespread prevalent case in each our lives. Our homes, neighborhoods, organizations, and to an extent of a global scale. It was rephrased as “A challenge that occurs frequently and simultaneously in synchrony.”

Addis Alemayehou gave the pandemic, that had been a global issue just two years ago, as an instance on an international level and related it to what the tourism industry might have faced at a time as such. Rahel Boon-Dejene, who was also unfamiliar to the term initially interpreted VUCA being “The life we lead”. Owing to her role as a mother of 5 children, a business leader based in the Netherlands, and a leading company in Ethiopia, she explained how every task reeks of VUCA. Divergent from the rest, Hikmet was no new to this term. She began by asking if anyone in the audience had prior knowledge of the term VUCA. Similar to her expectation, quite little amount of people raised their hands.  In agreement to Addis’s and Rahel’s notion, she expounded how we operate in this atmosphere day by day.

In terms of working against the VUCAs, Kidist followed by asking how each deal with VUCA on their respective businesses. In light of the commonality of this issue, each emphasized how an agile leader that anticipates hurdles beforehand and devises several viable solutions is mandatory. They followed by stating techniques they believed helped them throughout their journey.

Addis suggested strategies in tackling problems of a VUCA world. Technology is an asset to utilize in a time as advanced as such, communication with smarter and more experienced management teams before problem prevails (even your competitors) as well as having mentors for guidance were among the solutions he considered helpful.

In agreement, Rahel emboldened and could not leave without pointing out the values associated with creating partnerships with organizations of complementary goals. She stated that companies of different aims and objectives can work hand in hand to reach their respective goals.

Being the odd one out once again, Hikmet made a modest mockery of how she owned no business and hence was not a candidate to answer Kidist’s inquiry. She added to the banter by negating Addis’s strategies. Working with the public sector, she explained how some of the approaches noted by Addis might not be advantageous due to the residing issues, particularly in terms of working with individuals unwilling to contribute insights generously. Along with VUCA comes a risk and an opportunity. Rahel indicated how losing sight of our vision in the effort of dodging the challenges is a risk. Yet, it makes it possible for us to be innovative concurrently. It gives an opportunity for people to think more creatively.

They each presented the risks and potentials associated with a VUCA world, either by using their companies or other organizations and individuals they found inspiring in the process of surviving a VUCA world. ‘Scenario planning’; a term Hikmet introduced us was inaugurated by Shell company initially. Utilization of scenario planning assists individuals visualize a spectrum of potential outcomes. These scenarios take into account the possible positive and negative repercussions and assist leaders in developing numerous solution plans for each predictable issue.


Likewise, Nelson Mandela, who made an excellent use of the people with leadership skills in power by working alongside them instead of abolishing those who were already in power; Ethiopian Airlines – a company that used creative ways to make profit during the pandemic while the rest of the world was on panic-mode – were also among those found inspirational. From these examples they concluded the need in Anticipating problems, brainstorming and strategizing possible solutions and partnering with companies of compatible goals is essential.

The audience that had been listening with such eagerness and frequent laughter from Hikmet’s and Addis’s hilarity, was finally given the chance to shower the guest speakers with questions of all sort. And each gave the finest responses based on their expertise.

With a still sharp attention and frequent laughter from Hikmet’s and Addis’s hilarity, the evening came to an end and was wrapped-up with audience fully aware of both the term VUCA and means of tackling the difficulties in a VUCA world.

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