Leadership As A Solution To The Complexity Of Our Times

3 min read
15 September 2014

To better understand how leadership has evolved through the contributions of experts, we can use the metaphor of the captain of a ship. The captain needs to steer the ship towards the port he wants to go (Visionary Leadership); to adapt what he does based on the type of ship and crew he has (Situational Leadership); to do things better and in a different way (Transformational Leadership); he/she needs the emotions of the crew to be positive (Emotional Leadership), and it is also required that the captain develops their talent (Trainer Leadership).

Now the question is: how would the ship face a ‘perfect storm’, a set of circumstances that would make the journey particularly complex and difficult?

We live in a ‘VUCA World’ (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), an acronym derived from military terminology. This term also applies to strategy and leadership.

It is a volatile world because it changes dynamics more frequently than ever. It is uncertain because of its unpredictability. It is complex because many variables are involved at once and ambiguous because cause and effect sequences do not work as they previously did and reality seems to be the result of randomness.

This new VUCA era caused the US Army to review its leadership manual and transform it into the ‘Be-Know-Do’ model, relying more than ever on competence, character and action-taking.


Who makes a difference in a VUCA world?

According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Lebanese American essayist, scholar and statistician, society as a whole, and specifically the economy, are more fragile than ever due to overprotection - the term he uses is ‘Anti-fragile’ leaders. The answer to this problem is anti-fragile leadership, a leadership that is more resilient and robust. A style that is able to grow from challenges and become stronger.

In a VUCA world, according to Duke University’s Professor Rick Voirin, the strategic dilemmas are irresolvable, complex, threatening, enigmatic, confusing and multiple. Therefore, the key skills needed for leadership in this VUCA era include:

  • the ability to learn from the strangest situations;
  • to see things from the point of view of nature;
  • to calm down and integrate opposing positions;
  • to be open and authentic in what is important and,
  • to create and innovate constantly.


The Answer

The answer to a VUCA World is precisely what leadership expert Silvia Damiano offers through her i4 Neuroleader Model:


A good performing and balanced brain that is able to realise the connections between the different variables of this very ‘Complex’ world.


To overcome the ‘Uncertainty’ generated by such unpredictability.


To deal with the dynamics of change, which make the conditions very ‘Volatile’.


To resolve the ‘Ambiguity’ of our times, in which the sequences of simple and linear ‘cause and effect’ no longer work.


The i4 Neuroleader Model incorporates the latest advances from neuroscience and neuroleadership – the practical application of brain science to the leadership domain. Silvia Damiano provides a distinctive approach to what leadership needs to look like in our times: Leadership as a solution to the complexity.

In contrast to the previous leadership models, which were mainly originated in Anglo-Saxon countries, the i4 Model is the product of someone who was raised in Latin America and has lived and worked in several continents. Silvia's global experience has allowed her to develop a holistic view in regards to leadership.

Furthermore, the i4 Neuroleader Model takes into account the abilities that the female gender is more inclined to adopt when leading. This brings to mind the research by Dr. Louanne Brizendine on how women’s right and left hemispheres of the brain are more interconnected in comparison to men's. This difference results in women being able to communicate more openly, an important quality in leadership.

Additionally, women are able to detect facial expressions 90% of the time, while men are only able to capture the subtle signs of emotions 40% of the time. This gives the female gender the capacity to be more empathetic towards others.

Another significant difference is the hormone testosterone, which is higher in men. This makes men demonstrate a more commanding and goal-focused approach when leading others.

Does a different brain mean different leadership?
It is very possible.

Excerpt from the book ‘Leadership Is Upside Down’.

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