VUCA and YOU – How to Lead in Ambiguous Times

Final Installment in the Series

This ends my four-part series on managing the challenges of living in and leading through VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity). If you missed any posts in this series, they begin here.

This installment focuses on the A in VUCAAmbiguity.

The editorial team at Indeed describes business ambiguity this way:

Ambiguity is an unclear statement, task or goal. When you encounter an ambiguous situation, you may be unsure of how to proceed because the goal is vague or you don’t have access to all of the information you need. Though ambiguity can present many challenges in the workplace, you can learn how to overcome these situations and become a more confident professional.

Tips for Managing Ambiguity

Here are five tips to drive confident professionalism in ambiguous times.

  1. Set a Clear Vision of Success – Understand the issue you are trying to solve and articulate an easily understandable vision of how you will approach the problem and measure success.
  2. Verify Alignment and Vision Clarity – Ensure colleagues are “crystal clear” on the goal and the proposed course of action.
  3. Act on BAD – “Best Available Data” – When selecting strategies to achieve goals, be willing to act when you have sufficient instead of ideal information. Just as prototypes represent “minimal viable products,” VUCA decisions often must be made with the “best available data” – subject to rapid course correction. Look for data convergence (as opposed to a single data point) to add clarity to decision-making.
  4. When in Doubt – Err Toward Value Creation – When goals or tactics are unclear, err toward creating value. Ask yourself which path will likely create the most significant benefit to stakeholders with the least risk and expense.
  5. Strengthen Iterative Design Skills – Study and develop competencies in “design thinking” with an emphasis on quickly and incrementally improving stakeholder value. Let data garnered through the design process decrease ambiguity, and increase focus.

In an article titled “Leading Through Ambiguity,” the team at Korn Ferry offers a helpful summary of effective leadership in times of ambiguity by noting:

Coping with ambiguity means creating a culture where employees don’t worry about the things that are outside their control, and instead focus on what they can control…..Agile leadership in times of ambiguity and uncertainty means understanding its impact on the workforce and accepting that people aren’t comfortable with ambiguity. This involves showing confidence and clarifying the purpose of the organization, its strategic direction and values, and employees’ expectations of their role. Line managers play a significant role in providing this clarity, and leaders need to get rid of unnecessary red tape and empower line managers and employees to take the action they need to be agile and deliver through ambiguity.

How well are you leading through Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity? Where do you have opportunities to strengthen the skills outlined in this series? Moreover, how willing are you to accept that VUCA leadership skills are not a fad but an essential part of our increasingly challenging and exciting world?


To learn more about ways to emerge stronger when faced with Ambiguity, please get in touch with me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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