Leadership and Anxiety–Containment and Metabolism I: Anxiety in a VUCA-Plus Environment

Leadership and Anxiety–Containment and Metabolism I: Anxiety in a VUCA-Plus Environment


The second type of issue that a 21st Century leader faces with VUCA and VUCA-Plus can be labeled a “problem”. Some other authors have described these as “wicked” issues. Problems can be differentiated from puzzles because there are multiple perspectives that can be applied when analyzing a problem. Several possible solutions are associated with any one problem and multiple criteria can be applied to the evaluation of the potential effectiveness of any one solution.

There are many more cognitive demands being placed on us when we confront problems than when we confront puzzles—given that problems do not have simple or single solutions. Problems are multi-dimensional and inter-disciplinary in nature. They are inevitably complicated in that they involve many elements (Miller and Page, 2007). Any one problem can be viewed from many different points of view—thus it is unclear when they have been successfully resolved. For example, we find a technical solution and realize that the problem has financial implications. We address the financial implications and soon find that there are a whole host of managerial concerns associated with the problem.

Researchers and theorists who are seeking to understand complicated problems often describe the settings in which problems emerge as “rugged landscapes.” (Miller and Page, 2007, p. 216) This type of landscape is filled with many mountains of about the same height (think of the majestic mountain range called the Grand Tetons or the front range of the Rocky Mountains that citizens of Denver Colorado see every day), as compared with a landscape in which one mountain peak dominates (think of Mount Rainier). In a rugged landscape that is complicated, one finds many competing viewpoints about which mountain is higher or which vista is more beautiful. A similar case can be made regarding the challenging VUCA-Plus problems facing the 21st Century leader.


When certain issues that managers face appear impervious to a definitive solution, it becomes useful to classify them as dilemmas. While dilemmas like problems are complicated, they are also complex, in that each of the many elements embedded in the dilemma is connected to each (or most) of the other elements (Miller and Page, 2007). We may view the problem from one perspective and take action to alleviate one part of the problem; we then immediately confront another part of the problem, often represented by an opposing stakeholder group.


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William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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