Leading services in times of volatility, uncertainty, change and ambiguity or ‘VUCA’ (Ghate et el., 2014) is a contemporary and challenging task. Never before has a leaders role been so difficult. This is the conclusion I have come to whilst writing my paper for the Leading Wellbeing Conference hosted by the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability and Brathay Trust.


Public services and voluntary sector services have less resources, more to do, and operate in times of unprecedented change and instability. One of the leadership solutions proposed to address this is ‘system leadership’. The theory is sound – we need to create  leadership system in our organisations that are dynamic, fluid and shared in order to respond to the VUCA environment. What this actually means in practice is, however, less obvious.


The paper I have written draws out the technical skills and knowledge needed by children’s centre leaders who are implementing a system leadership approach across Hertfordshire. Committing to a system leadership approach is not enough, there must be some substance behind the theory. Only with these foundational skills, which are actually very sophisticated and advanced, can system leadership thrive.


To hear more, come to the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival – it is jam packed full of inspiring leaders from across the world, as well as a host of activities and social events in the heart of the Lake District.

Leading in times of uncertainty