Virtual reality platform and systemic leadership; a radical new approach to leading in volatile times

Johannesburg, 11 June 2019; As the world hurtles on its trajectory of disruption and change, companies must, of necessity, adapt. Only those with high performing, collaborative leadership teams – which recognise that people and technology are the cornerstones of transformation – will adapt strategically and successfully.

That’s the view of Barbara Walsh, MD of bespoke consultancy, Metaco. Walsh says 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.” Metaco hosted around 100 executives from some of South Africa’s top businesses, announcing the company’s acquisition by Comair Limited (SUBS: 11 JUNE 2019), as well as the launch of Metaco’s new VR coaching platform. 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.” 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,” said Walsh. In the context of the digital age and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), organisations must 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. “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.

Walsh’s co-presenter, Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School, said, “…the world has moved beyond the time when major challenges could be met by the great individual leader (usually a CEO). “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, said Hawkins. 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.“

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, Hawkins noted, 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. 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,” Hawkins concluded.