Leading in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In an era where the world moves at an increasingly frenetic pace, to create those bold futures leaders must pivot in the ways they lead, especially in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, referred to by Petrie (2011) as “VUCA”. In this complex and seemingly unstable environment, leaders are hard-pressed to ascertain logical cause-and-effect relationships, creating ambiguity in decision making (Paparone & Topic, 2011). As a result, leaders are no longer able to assess, develop, and implement viable strategies from their past experiences (Brodie, 2019). This new context, the fourth industrial revolution, is reflected in the blending of digital, material, and biological systems, changing this ecosystem of users of technology to one where the lines between the digital and physical become blurred (Morrar, Arman, & Mousa, 2017). These cyber-physical systems brings a multitude of opportunities and challenges for leaders in this integrated landscape, connecting people via technology with unparalleled speeds, spanning geographical boundaries, and allowing access to seemingly limitless information and knowledge (Schwab, 2016). Current and future leaders need an acute awareness of the strategies necessary to redefine and reshape their leadership practices for optimal success within this new reality (Brodie, 2019). Moreover, a holistic understanding—addressing the development of the whole person—broadens the boundaries of what’s possible in context of talent development and global goals (Fraizer, 2018).


Pressures and demands on leaders require ongoing, new and innovative skills to meet the current and future leadership needs, and the rapid pace of societal change driven by the fourth industrial revolution (Dell, 2016). Leaders must not only adapt and react to a rapidly iterating context but also do so with certainty in an uncertain and dynamic environment where predictability is no longer a measure for decision making. Knowing how to manage and foster change, build consensus, develop creativity and innovation, inspire others toward a vision for the future, and lead those spanning multiple generations are keys to nurturing success in an intricately networked and complex environment (DDI, 2015). To harness the opportunities in this technologically-driven context, understanding the strategies of leading in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment is essential. In addition, knowing how to foster and develop those skills in women leaders ensures strong future leadership. This session introduces key strategies and leadership characteristics that can assist tomorrow’s leaders to achieve a lasting foothold in the shifting sands of today’s VUCA world (Brodie, 2019).


Brodie, V.  (2021).  Leading in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Presented at the 2021 Clute International Academic Conferences Las Vegas, October.