Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) are widespread, according to Garvey Berger (Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, 2013) and Johnston. Garvey Berger and Johnston cover accepted leadership practices, such as obtaining feedback, skilled listening, and expressing a clear vision, but their unique value added is how they broaden the discussion. When the authors speak to listening, for example, they suggest most people think good listening answers the question of “What does this message mean to me?” However, excellent listeners should be asking, “What is this person’s purpose, intent, hope in delivering this message? What does this message mean to them?” Such distinctions differentiate this book from typical leadership works. In the end, the authors impart excellent advice without oversimplifying the application process, because “being a leader under conditions of complexity is dripping with paradox.” This book exemplifies the approach of the authors and the team which comprises Cultivating Leadership. Cultivating Leadership provides leadership development programming, coaching, strategic facilitation, and speaking on the topics of leadership and complexity. Their clients span the globe in both the for-profit as well as non-profit realms.
This text challenges us to “get our heads around” what is possible rather than what is probably going to happen. This key distinction highlights the possibility of what can happen rather than the probability of what has happened before. In essence, the challenge is developing, leadership for what is needed looking and moving forward rather than analyzing the present given past experiences. What is needed is to grow more able to handle complexity through the simple habits of the mind to stretch one’s thinking.
The authors outline the deceptively simple habits of the mind as asking different questions, taking multiple perspectives, and seeing systems. Asking different questions enables someone to shift their mindset. Taking multiple perspectives enables one to learn from the other’s perspective and utilize this newfound power to resolve the contextual dilemma (rather than to be weaponized against the other). Seeing systems (what is happening) trumps cause-and-effect analysis. That is seeing systems allows reality to emerge rather than one’s constructed predetermined effect based on perceived causes.
While the authors utilize slightly different language, their approach takes advantage of advanced coaching competencies to assist the client (as an individual or a group of individuals) in gaining clarity, to become unstuck from their current conundrum, and discover new approaches, goals, and action steps. I appreciate Dr. Jason Clarke serving up this text as another prime candidate to be included in my research on developing global coaching networks for church planting organizations. Not only is this text helpful, but the authors strategic coaching and consulting organization, Cultivating Leadership, will be a viable source.
Perhaps my greatest takeaway from this source is that growing as leaders and developing leaders of organizations in these times is incredibly difficult. It is difficult for “mighty” for-profit organizations like Microsoft and KPMG as well as non-profits like YMCA and Greenpeace. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (i.e., VUCA) are very real contextual factors globally for everyone, including the Church. This source affirms my experience and passion for the application of competent coaching skills throughout the global church, to grow and develop leaders (pastors and church planters) to not only survive but thrive in the age of VUCA.
 Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2015
 Garvey Berger, Jennifer and Keith Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders ( Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015), 11-12
 Garvey Berger and Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times, 16-27.