Sustainable Leadership

What core competencies do leaders need in the current era of the 2020s?

In our opinion, the acronym BANI describes the new requirements and conditions more appropriately than the VUCA model that has been commonly used for 30 years.

B for Brittle

Many economic systems have been trimmed to efficiency and productivity alone, which has been taken to extremes by focusing organizations on a service or product. The resulting mono-cultures are extremely susceptible to disturbance. Focused systems become brittle and tip over or break when system malfunctions occur.

Restoring resilience (stretchability) to a system requires internal diversity, regenerative leadership, and sufficient buffers of work time, attention, and similar resources to be able to respond to unforeseen situations.

A for Anxious

The supposed ability to plan and control the world, which our Western society has declared for itself since the Enlightenment, has dissolved (again). Lacking practice in the cultural skills of acting calmly in a confusing environment, most people react with worry, fear, denial, or aggressiveness. All these often unconscious reactions of our brainstem hinder future-oriented action.

Mindfulness, composure, resilience and empathy are the most important ingredients to navigate well in the »river of life« and to deal appropriately with oneself and the teams.

N for Non-linear

In our highly complex, highly interconnected world, there are always more factors impacting a situation than managers can ever be aware of. Everything is created conditionally. Linear attributions of cause and effect can only be found in simple, stable systems.

Nonlinearity can be (partially) understood if executives approach the framework using a contextual view and look for patterns rather than individual causes. This way of thinking is the prerequisite for adaptability.

I for Incomprehensible (Not Knowing)

Non-linearity, lost planning ability and controllability or brittleness are phenomena where more information does not help us to understand. The growing abundance of possible interpretations of existing information overwhelms the human mind. More of the same does not yield any gain in knowledge.

As humans, we can access more cognitive systems than just mental intelligence. If we manage to activate our emotional, intuitive or social intelligence as well, for example, by creating our systems as transparently as possible, then we have a broader decision-making basis for a comprehensive, qualified non-knowledge (wisdom).


Source: Inspired by Stephan Grabmeier, »New Sensemaking Model: It's BANI?« (2021) managerseminare, issue 275, p. 24 et seq.