Virtual Reality And A Radical New Approach To Leading In Volatile Times

As the world hurtles on its trajectory of disruption and change, companies must, of necessity, adapt. Here's what you need to know.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur South Africa, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Only businesses with high performing, collaborative leadership teams – which recognise that people and technology are the cornerstones of transformation – will adapt strategically and successfully in these disruptive times.


"Metaco operates at the cross-section between strategy, organizational design and culture change, creating opportunities that transform leadership thinking, deliver value and change lives to create a better, more connected world," says Barbara Walsh, MD of bespoke consultancy, Metaco.

Metaco hosted around 100 executives from some of South Africa's top businesses, announcing the company's acquisition by Comair Limited, as well as the launch of Metaco's new VR coaching platform.

The challenges your leadership team will face

Walsh detailed the challenge to leadership teams in the 21st Century: "How do organisations and their leaders develop the foresight and resilience for a world of disruptive technologies, political uncertainty and constant change?"

"In a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world there also exists potential for exponential growth."

Related: How To Be A Great Leader When Leadership Doesn't Come Naturally To You

Achieving that growth is not a matter of individual leaders' charisma, "but the ability to form relationships as partnerships in service of a clearly articulated and commonly understood purpose," says Walsh.

Are you implementing proactive leadership?

In the context of the digital age and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), organisations need to leverage teams and technology to anticipate and act on change before it happens.

Walsh used a VR simulation – developed by Metaco in partnership with IQ Business – to demonstrate, "how the challenges in organisations are not its people, but the connections between those people."

She showed how VR can revolutionise the way leaders and teams relate though the ability to simulate difficult conversations or negotiations – disagreeing with someone senior to them, asking for resources or discussing a team member's poor performance with them, for example – without any of the anxiety of doing to in real life.

Related: Why Inspirational Leadership Alone Is Not Enough

"This enables them to roleplay the scenario and prepare for it, removing any negative personal biases and helping them manage the encounter professionally."

Collective leadership is what's needed

"The world has moved beyond the time when major challenges could be met by the great individual leader (usually a CEO)," says Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School.

"Humans have created a world of such complexity and global interdependence, and of continuous, fast-moving and volatile change, that leadership is beyond the scope of any individual (no matter how confident) and requires more effective collective leadership and high-performing leadership teams."

But in a broader context, the methodology of executive learning and development itself has shifted to accommodate the needs of the so-called exponential world, where unpredictability is the norm, says Hawkins.

How the new way of learning with shape future leaders

This means that learning no longer takes place outside of the environment or context but rather uses a consolidated approach working with senior leadership teams within their environment. "It acts as a mirror, challenger, trusted advisor and sometimes critic to generate new ways of thinking and working.

Related: How to Become an Authentic Leader

"It's this new way of learning combined with technology that will shape leaders who can envision, transform and disrupt their industries. It's these change agents, who are courageous and vulnerable, are able to cope with complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, and who will shape the future with and for their people."

It's for this reason, that Metaco has begun to focus so keenly on what's termed Systemic Leadership Team Coaching as a primary area of specialisation, and it's also the reason for the company's investment into technology as a powerful platform for sustainable learning.

"The bottom line as we see it is that in these times of dynamic change, it's those who possess the skills and characteristics to lead in this new exponential world who will thrive," says Hawkins.

"It's our purpose to create opportunities that transform leadership thinking, deliver value, change lives and create a better, more connected world. In an exponential world, we don't see any other way."

Related: 29 Top Influential SA Business Leaders