Leadership in Complexity


When I started work in Warsaw as a consultant in 2006, I was a disillusioned 40 year old leaving a successful corporate career with a strong belief that multi-national companies were increasingly misguided in their pursuit of short term profits and management by spread-sheets. Corporate life in hierarchies and increasingly complex matrices was stifling creativity and undermining human potential.

Indeed, it was no surprise to me that the new generation of tech companies were thriving at the same time as traditional corporations were consolidating to grow, cost cutting and squeezing the life out of employees who live in fear of the next re-organisation.

With the marvellous team at Fluent, we set out to build a consultancy in 2006 that would bring fresh inspiration to leaders in the corporate world with longer time horizons, compelling visions of the future and multi-year strategies to get there.  The response from clients was positive and we have enjoyed growing our alumni of successful leaders who have challenged short termism, changed the status quo and invested in skills to empower and engage people in their organisations.  Such leaders have been promoted quickly and moved companies with growing reputations as strategic leaders and excellent developers of talent.

Twelve years later, the landscape has changed dramatically!

In 2018, we find ourselves re-defining our consultancy and developing a whole new suite of models, tools and techniques that are urgently required by our clients.

Many of the principles we have applied as Fluent remain the same such as building organisations on the foundations of purpose and values, setting long term direction, investing in teams and empowering people to do great work.

The big shift is that long term visions and strategic planning are no longer possible due to the impacts of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (known as “VUCA”).   We also know that the pace and exponential nature of change created by VUCA will impact all organisations in different ways depending on your sector and the unique characteristics of your markets.

We now find ourselves ‘co-creating’ a whole new conceptual basis for organisations and leadership to respond to VUCA in ways that are fast and highly adaptable.  Leaders need fresh thinking and practices to help them get ahead of major changes and to overcome the internal resistance to change which is the natural human response to the chaos being experienced in many organisations.

We are calling this “leadership in complexity”….

Responding to VUCA
We believe there are 4 inter-connected elements to the response to VUCA that involve high levels of skill that all leaders will need to master to be winners.

These are:

  • Foresightto anticipate the opportunities and risks created by VUCA for specific types of organisation without fear or constraint;
  • Re-Envisioningto replace traditional approaches to creating visions and long term strategic plans;
  • Leadershipthat makes sense of VUCA and changes the narrative and networks within, and outside of, organisations to create new possibilities that are not limited by the corporate hierarchy; and
  • Engagementbased on a deep and progressive understanding of how to energise people, sustain and grow the personal power of employees and remove the fear of consequences from everyday life.

To lead organisations and solve 21stCentury business problems, it is very clear that soft skills, highly developed emotional intelligence and communications skills will be increasingly more valuable than knowledge and years of experience.  In fact, it is also fair to predict that, for most organisations, the Boardroom will be the last place to find solutions to the kinds of challenges and new opportunities that VUCA will create.


For leaders willing to look to the future with a sense of optimism and adventure, VUCA will bring exciting opportunities to experiment with new concepts, ideas and different ways to create the future and lead people.

The team at Fluent invite you to join our conversations.  We welcome you to be part of the co-creation of simple, pragmatic solutions to the challenges facing your organisations.

On a personal note, I believe this is the most exciting time in history to embrace change and focus on new possibilities at all levels – leading to personal, organisational and systemic transformation.

Great leaders will rise above the polarisation and negativity we feel in our wider societies and the fear of change that inhibits the vast majority of people in their organisations.

Jonathan Siddons, Partner at Fluent


Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash