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StageSHIFT partners with executive leaders to inspire and accelerate a quantum vertical shift in conscious leadership capacity and effectiveness, embracing the opportunity in systemic complexity and rising volatility to co-create more sustainable, healthy, and equitable business ecosystems where everyone and all of life flourishes as a community.

Learn to "C" the world anew: The 5 C's of VUCA Leadership

executive coaching leadership development vuca May 25, 2016

The VUCA world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity is the emergent norm of the post-conventional world. It demands that we develop post-conventional leadership capacity. As Einstein said, we can’t solve problems at the level they were created.

We need to transcend VUCA, which most interestingly means “to wake up” in the Zulu language, with Visionary intentions, deeper Understanding, Clarity and creativity, and Agility in navigation.

This involves a number of shifts in mindset from a fixed mindset, to a growth mindset (Carol Dweck), to an open mindset (Otto Scharmer) and a clear mindset (empty Buddha’s mind). This will enable us to shift from surviving and striving, to thriving and inspiring!

This is the journey from being a conventional leader, a high performing Achiever who make up 30% of the majority of executive leaders anchored in conventional mindsets (85%), to becoming Catalysts (Individualists | Redefining) and Strategists (Transforming) who comprise just 10% and 5% of leaders respectively.

This is the shift from reactive to creative and from scared to sacred. We must learn to “c” the world anew and take the Hero’s Journey from being entrenched in the 20th century material, industrial world focused on things to a 21st century wise and compassionate world focused on life.

There are five key practices, five C’s, in making the shift to become a transforming, strategic, holistic, integral, VUCA leader.


Curiosity enables you to abandon current paradigms of how the world works, and instead open yourself up to the enormous possibility that life flows through you as you. If you see everything in life as a Movie or a Mirror, you will soon wake up to (VUCA!) the life force that flows through you.

Life happens through us, not just to us. Through the arrival of lessons and blessings, life is designed to teach us self-mastery so we can evolve to become the best person we are capable of becoming and be instrumental in the co-creation of a better world.

Life is a Movie! It is a projection of our conscious thoughts and intentions. Start to consider the thoughts that appear in your mind in relation to life experiences that are showing up. Are you receiving new opportunities, taking new adventures, leading an enriching life? What’s on your mind?

Life is also a Mirror! It is a reflection of our subconscious beliefs and attitudes. Start to consider how you feel about things and why. Are you learning about power dynamics by exercising authentic personal power and allowing others the same freedom?

Once you decide that everything happens for a reason and that nothing is an accident, you can start to take better directions by becoming more open to inner guidance. The universe wants us to make the shift to a more sustainable, nourishing world. We’re instruments on earth helping this be so. You just need to put your hand up to help!


Compassion is developed through self-awareness and self-acceptance. By realizing that our emotions are a signalling system of past hurts, we can learn to heal ourselves. Emotional reactions based on past trauma impair our cognitive agility.

When our emotions are triggered, it is a sign that a past hurt is ready to heal. This hurt is usually the result of abuse, betrayal, abandonment, rejection, neglect, deceit or derision. By finding the source of the original emotional wound, we can heal it through understanding and forgiveness with our hearts. Once healed, our mind clears and we become calm and develop peace of mind.

This process enables us to develop compassion for others and approach everyone from the point of view that we are all trying to do our best in the world, however it might appear to us at first glance. This is the shift from judging to understanding.


We must use our minds with focused intentional attention in the present moment to tune into the most aspirational outcomes we can imagine in order to set our radar to the highest possibilities. Clarifying an aspirational purpose for our lives and our organizations fuels our conviction of leading a purposeful and meaningful life.

Once our radar is set, we will receive intuitive and later embodied guidance to realize visionary outcomes. Daily habits of mind fire new neurons that wire new networks in our brain. The parts of our brain associated with self-awareness, self-mastery and higher mental processing actually increase in size and texture (Joel and Michelle Levey), and the amygdala diminishes in size with meditation (Matthieu Ricard).

The key is also to delete automatic negative and worrisome thoughts from our inner vocabulary. This also demands a high degree of mindfulness and an open clear mind. External turbulence cannot upset a peaceful mind.

It takes courage to follow an uncertain ambiguous pathway and navigate it as best you can. It takes courage to speak up and be a whistle-blower when behaviour around you is less than you believe is respectful to others. It takes courage to implement a new approach that is contrary to conventional processes.

It takes courage to truly listen from the heart and to speak up with your own vulnerable truth. It takes courage to point out that the outcomes are not quite as they have been presented in the false hope that what is not spoken of will not be real.

Courage is supported by inner spiritual strength. Courage is emboldened by kindness and enthusiasm. Courage is to feel the fear and do it anyway because it’s attuned to your highest purpose and best person you can be. Are you showing self-respect by standing up for your standards, boundaries and priorities?


Collaboration requires both time and space. Collaboration is not cooperation, accommodation nor consultation. Collaboration is an emergent process of mutual developmental inquiry in relation to a challenge or aspiration where there are multiple diverse perspectives in the room fully representative of all stakeholders and a great respect and reverence for the views expressed by each person.

True collaboration also requires vulnerability. We must be open to our own truth about ourselves, our motives, needs, desires and aspirations, to be authentically present. Collaboration is based on the universal principles of community, equality and liberty.

Collaboration is also an iterative revelatory process. We arrive at a collaborative engagement with questions rather than answers. With a desire to better understand others and gain a greater appreciation of the intricacies and implications of options and choices. It is a process that involves the discerning mind and the listening heart.


These five C’s enable us to develop our character and capacity rather than just our capabilities and competencies.

In making the shift to post-conventional VUCA leadership we must first reinvent the structures within which we work as conventional processes and systems inhibit our organic growth as post-conventional leaders. By implementing an uplifting structure such as the Executive Strategic Operating System, we create the expansive space for growth from the “outside-in”. Please see my book below.

Secondly we must view life as a movie and a mirror so that we learn from life’s lessons and blessings in order to heal emotional triggers, become consciously mindful of our intentions, and be discerning, authentic and compassionate in the midst of power dynamics going on around us. As Gandhi said, we must become the change we wish to see in the world. This is a process of reflection, discernment, learning and healing from the “inside-out”.

Here are 7 tips that you can put into play today.

  1. Invest in developing self and others – get a later stage action logic coach! – become curious and inquisitive in relation to what life is teaching you
  2. Approach everyone from the point of view that everyone’s doing the best they can regardless of what you might first think – builds compassion
  3. Be a courageous caring whistle-blower on substandard behaviour – this enables people to feel safe and secure in your presence and builds trust
  4. Decide on the personal values and holistic principles that you stand for – such as equality, liberty and community – and rather than comply with conventional norms and processes, only take action in alignment with your own values and principles – builds integrity
  5. Aspirational goals are essential to turn on your intuitive radar to the best possible outcomes – builds optimism and enthusiasm for new possibilities
  6. Explore each emotional trigger in terms of self-mastery, find its source, and develop a new understanding and appreciation of the past to heal emotional wounds – builds acceptance compassion for self and others
  7. Appreciate all blessings and lessons in life with profound gratitude and joyful reverence as you learn and evolve

To find out more about the Join the SHIFT! advanced leadership development online program so you can become a more inspiring, strategic and transforming VUCA leader, click here.

About Antoinette Braks

Antoinette Braks is a Transformational Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership with 25+ years global experience. In recent years she has coached more than 50 Senior Executives, led many Strategic Off-sites for Executive Teams, and Leadership Development Programs in organizations with outstanding results.

Antoinette has an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing her PhD at the MGSM in Leadership Transformation. Previously she has led Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific, People and Culture with Shell in Latin America and Africa, and was GM People and Culture with Vector in New Zealand.

Antoinette is also the bestselling author of Executive SOS outlining the 7 Proven Steps to Set Up Your Own Strategic Operating System. This book shows you how to rise above the noise, get off the treadmill and lead your division and stakeholders as an Inspiring Strategic Leader, showcasing a number of success stories from her executive clients.

I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this post and hope you gained something really valuable from it. If so, please Like, leave a Comment and Share it with your network. I’m really grateful for your involvement!

Do connect with me and follow me on LinkedIn andTwitter. To see all my posts and keep up to date, please join the Strategic Holistic Leadership Group on LinkedIn.

Find out more about the Join the SHIFT! advanced leadership program – a blend of online resources and webinars, and/or group forums and individual coaching programs. To inquire into an individually customized executive coaching program for you, email me at [email protected]

All the best, Antoinette


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