BCG Henderson Institute

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When articles, podcasts or speakers begin with some cliché about the speed at which the world is changing, perhaps with a reference to generative AI or the recent pandemic, it’s tempting to tune out. What else is new?

While change is constant, managing change—or managing amidst change—can be a huge challenge. There’s even an acronym, attributed to the military, describing what leaders face on a daily basis. It’s called VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Or as the authors of a Harvard Business Review article lightheartedly described the phenomenon a few years back, “Hey, it’s crazy out there!”

Frankly, leading in such an environment is probably more than any single individual can, or should even attempt, to handle—especially at a large and complex organization. Nobody can do it all.

This isn’t to say that the days of the iconic rock-star leader are gone. The business world will always have its fair share of larger-than-life industry and institutional giants, such as Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, Bill Gates, and Satya Nadella, who draw all the attention when they enter a room.

But they’re the exceptions. And we don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes day-in and day-out. For more than four decades, for example, Charlie Munger made many of the decisions that produced Berkshire Hathaway’s financial success, helping to create Warren Buffett’s reputation as the “Sage of Omaha.” The late Mr. Munger seemed satisfied with being Berkshire Hathaway’s less-celebrated number two.

The reality is: Even the superhero CEOs who are constantly in the news can’t see around every corner. And they can’t single-handedly make the huge organizations they lead adapt quickly to every whack-a-mole new challenge that confronts them in today’s world. It’s not possible.

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