When a cobra prepares to strike its prey, it does do in three distinct states. Firstly, it raises its head, then unfolds the hood surrounding its head and finally it keeps gazing at the target before striking it. These three stages combined lead to its ability to successfully make a kill. Taken together, these stages represent what is needed to unleash the power of the mind to transcend challenges faced in a “VUCA” environment.
VUCA is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that impedes the ability of leaders to achieve goals set. Such an environment brings about enormous turbulence of unprecedented proportions. When a leader confronts such turbulence, his will to take decisive action is seriously impaired by an irresolute mind that is agitated. Leaders need to transcend this agitated state to then be able to develop an all-embracing selfless vision, enhance understanding and sustain clarity.
The agitated mind is a mob of thoughts and emotions that distract a leader from a prescribed vision. Such an agitated mind loses its power to act wisely based on accurate and deep understanding. When the mind is unruly and indecisive, the body follows through with non-action. An agitated mind ceases to function and succumbs to confusion and conflicts brought about by VUCA that derail well thought out plans.
Under these circumstances, it is imperative to develop the powers of concentration, the powers of decision making and the power of selflessness.
Power of concentration
The power of concentration requires three things to be done. The first is to bear down on the object of concentration, the second is to avoid all distractions and the third is to remain focused on the object of focus over a prolonged period of time. This is precisely what a cobra does as it prepares to strike its prey as it raises its head, unfolds the hood and gazes monetarily at the target.
Concentrating on the underlying issues that drive volatility is necessary. For this to happen, all distractions that occur due to complexity and uncertainty have to be disregarded as a leader, steeped in concentration, remains focused long enough on issues that matter for him or her to develop an all-embracing vision for the future.
This is becoming increasingly difficult as Daniel Coleman in his book Focus, noted how we live today in the midst of epidemic distractions. He claims that in today’s world, most people, leaders included, are forced to grapple with distractions continuously. They find it difficult to engage in mental activities that require concentration required for vision, understanding and clarity. Consequently, the powers of concentration decline.
Power of selflessness
By adopting and clinging onto an egoistic mindset, leaders fail to develop a deep and accurate understanding of what happened, what is happening and what could happen in a volatile business environment. They tend to dismiss viewpoints that differ from theirs as fallacies and seek validation of their biased opinions and viewpoints when pursuing their personal vision. As such their understanding of issues that emerge remain superficial. This being the case, overcoming volatility becomes a nightmare that continually engulfs the entire organization in a shroud of ignorance.
The mind has the power to discard the influence of the ego as a central criterion that bears on how a person thinks. By using this power, a leader puts the well-being of the people, the organization and the nation beyond his personal well-being when defining a more all-embracing selfless vision. By doing so, leaders lead with compassion and genuine concern for long term welfare of all employees and clients when faced with difficult choices.
Power of decision making
Seeking and maintaining clarity is the antidote for dealing with complexity. As complexity takes root in any situation, leaders become increasingly indecisive and unclear on their next course of action due to the variegated maze of options available.
The mind has the power to decide on what to think and what not to think about. It has the power to decide on what to do and what not to do. Essentially it means using the mind to make a conscious and deliberate attempt to pursue a specific thought, discarding all other thoughts and in the process taking a specific course of action and discarding all alternatives altogether.
By developing the power of decision making, a leader is able to delete alternative options available in order to focus on making conscious attempts towards achieving a specific goal. This avoids the tendency of keeping other options open that run the risk that the leader will change the mind mid-way, leading to indecisiveness.
Being decisive is a critical requirement for seeking clarity as it involves ignoring information that is false, incomplete and inaccurate and focusing only on information that is true, complete and accurate. By doing so, a leader is better poised to make the correct decision most of the time.
In summary, for leaders to navigate around and thrive in a VUCA environment, they need to unleash the powers of the mind. Transcending limitations imposed as a result of volatility, requires a selfless all-embracing vision. Minimizing the impact of uncertainty requires developing the accurate understanding. Integrating accurate understanding with a selfless vision requires clarity to counter confusion when faced with complexity. To overcome complexity, the power to decide effectively and conclusively is crucial.
Developing the powers of concentration, selflessness and decision making provides better understanding, clarity and vision that is necessary to navigate in unchartered waters leaders find ourselves themselves in. Hence unleashing the powers of the mind holds the key to survival in this day and age.
Dr Rumesh Kumar
Sharma Management International