VUCA, BANI, FAANG and Corporate Leadership Lessons

By Lt. Gen. Anil Kapoor 

The euphoria of FAANG or MAANG is infectious and a dream job not only for young techies but for experts of all ages. Facebook or Meta, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google created a name over the past few decades given their strong avant-garde leadership at all levels, deep selection of   creative youth as a profile of HR, flat virtualized pyramidical organisational  structures,  small team concept of inherent amoeba sub organizations.

To a military mind, strong leaders, conventional or non conventional conformists or non conformists, beget strong organisations. And truly so, how else can a leader respond to a perennial Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA) environment or forecast, plan and respond proactively to an unforeseen Brittle, Anxious, Non Linear and Incomprehensible (BANI) Tsunami.

A leader has to be empathetic, winning hearts and minds to command respect and get the best out of the team which, when stretched to crisis situations like combat, could even mean supreme sacrifice in warlike situations, to retain the honour of the nation, force or the unit.

At the nucleus of the aforesaid lies the underlying cardinal principle of leadership of defining purpose and creating a culture of ownership of each member of the team. The  jugular vein of leadership, therefore, is to build confidence of the team in the institution or organisation and create  synergies, camaraderie and bonhomie. The recent spree in layoffs is a disturbing trend in leadership  of FAANG.

The mass layoffs speaks volumes of  embracing the easier wrong than the harder right. It requires the strong will of the leaders to say, ‘Lay offs over my dead body’ and the rest will follow.

The present economic crisis has been a significant example of the resilience of strong culture wherein not only is the NSE index high, there is a spree in hiring by the Corporate and Government Institutions alike, as if it is business as usual. A resurgent India with its three pronged strategy of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Make in India  and Start Up India has lessons in crisis management for the world business community, in general, and FAANG, in particular.

Moreover, FAANG can score very high during these times of recession by honing up their business models, providing enhanced capabilities to their organisation, resolute leadership to their teams and demonstrating  an intent of ownership of the mother-child relationship.

One may have a vague idea that layoff is coming but when it happens, the natural response is WHY ME!

Based on my military  experience, I have conceptualised and practiced my own credo of POISE – Passion, Ownership, Innovation, Synergy and Efficiency as a leadership best practice in the VUCA-BANI era. P stands for Purpose with Passion, O is ownership with optimism, I signifies innovation and initiative,  S is skills and synergy, and E emphasises efficiency and effectiveness. 

The strategy of Pause, POISE, Posture could be a good strategic way forward for the guild of FAANG.  Pause signifies the power of patience to take a step back, think strategically with POISE and take management decisions to meet the milestones, as a progressive posture.

A story circulating on social media is worth mentioning, titled – You could be the medium that saves a life, here:

Take this para in highlight:

The little boy came from school on a Saturday and told his father, My teacher has given us homework to hug 10 people and tell them, “Be patient, trust life and I Love you”.

The Dad said – “OK, we will go to the Mall tomorrow morning and do it”. The child woke up all spirited up in the morning, got ready. Went to his Dad and said, “Let’s go!”  The father said, “there is heavy rainfall, I fear nobody might be there”.

The child still insisted. So the Father drove in the horrible rainy weather to the Mall. They stood in the mall for one hour, and the little boy hugged 9 people. His father then said, “Now let’s go, it’s raining heavily and we shouldn’t get stuck!”

Sadly the son went along with his father’s orders. As they were driving past, the child pointed at a random house, and said, “Please dad, just one person is remaining, I will go to that house and complete my homework”!

The father smiled and pulled the car over. The child went to the door and began to ring the bell and pound the door strongly with his knuckles. He kept waiting. Finally the door was opened gently. A lady came out with a very sad look and gently asked, “What can I do for you, son?

With radiant eyes and a bright smile the child said, “Ma’am my teacher has told 10 people to Hug 10 people and tell them – “Be patient, trust life and I Love you”.

I have hugged nine and may I hug you and pass the message to you. The lady embraced him, and started crying profusely. On seeing that the Boy’s father came out of the car. He went to the lady and asked, “Any problem madam?”

She composed herself, took them inside, gave them a cup of tea and then told his father, “my husband died a while ago leaving me totally alone in this world. Today morning the loneliness took over me. Since morning I have been thinking that this is the end of the road for me. Then I took a chair and a rope to my bedroom and decided to end my life. As I was seeing the world for one last time, I begged for forgiveness to god and then heard this knock. I thought about leaving it. But then nobody comes to visit me.

When I opened the door, I couldn’t believe what my eyes saw. And when he said, “Be patient, trust life and I Love you”. I knew it was a message from God. Suddenly I realized I don’t want to die anymore, and have decided to make something productive of my life.

And now the tail piece as a Leadership Lesson. To be or not be , to do or not to do is not the question.  Be a transformative leader, just make it happen- empathise, rethink and act, and shun layoffs.

Lt. Gen Anil Kapoor, AVSM, VSM superannuated from Indian Army as Director General Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (DGEME) and Director General Information Systems (DGIS).  He is an expert in Radars, Guided Missiles, MRO asset management and condition based monitoring of assets. He is now a Professor of Practice at IIT, Tirupati.

 Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times

Images courtesy of (Image: YouTube) and Provi

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