Have you ever been required to attend a leadership development workshop sponsored by your company, only to come away wondering why anyone even bothered?

If you answered yes, you are not alone. A 2012 study done by Bersin & Associates found that American companies spend almost US$14 billion annually on leadership development training. Clearly, companies value investing money into educating their talent in solid leadership skills.

The problem isn’t the intent. The problem is most leadership development programs don’t work that well. Many factors contribute to the high failure rate, including:

  • A failure to consider the context of various real-world situations requiring strong leadership skills
  • An abysmal retention rate between what is learned in the program and what needs to be done back at work
  • Not addressing the deeper level thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs of workshop participants so the root causes of why they behave the way they do can be addressed and thus changed
  • Not measuring results

Additionally, many companies are growing so fast these days, they need to promote highly specialized internal candidates into leadership roles to keep them engaged – as they see a career progression and they feel their efforts are being recognized with the promotion. While this approach certainly has its upside, it can also be a disaster if the newly promoted are not properly prepared for the daily demands and responsibilities of their new leadership role. Merely sending them off to a 3-day leadership “bootcamp” isn’t going to cut it as effective leadership requires the new leader to embody a new set of behaviors.

Given today’s highly volatile climate marked by consistent economic fluctuations, re-orgs and subsequent layoffs, 21st century leadership poses a range of challenges. These challenges often arise from three main sources:

  • People and situations (external)
  • Within the leader him or herself (internal)
  • The nature of being a leader in a complex world

As if the VUCA environment wasn’t enough, most challenges organizations face tend to show up during times of change or instability, like when a company is being acquired, or a new software system is being introduced to the entire organization. Other triggers that can derail leaders include when a large project or period of work is beginning or ending, or when a group or organization is in transition.

Some challenges are basic and don’t last that long (with a clear end date in sight). But many seem to have no end date, like maintaining team morale during another round of layoffs, or keeping everyone focused on the company’s long-term mission and vision. These situations can feel a lot like entering a roundabout and getting stuck in a circle with no clear way of getting out.

Takeaway Question: Think about the last professional development seminar you attended. What worked well? What was missing?

Excerpt from Claudio’s book “The Samurai Samba Vinci Way: How to Improve Your Executive Presence, Increase Trust and Lead Your Team at a World-Class Level” available on Amazon.
#leadership #selfawareness #culturaldiversity

When the hi-tech company Uber first arrived on the scene in 2009, it brought the personal transportation industry in some cities to its knees. Representing what has become known as the “sharing economy,” Uber’s business model is based on an app that allows people to “tap a button, get a ride.”

Taxi companies were not excited about Uber. Can you imagine belonging to a sector of the economy that requires you to pay thousands of dollars in “membership” fees only to have a new incumbent playing by a completely different set of rules? That is the reality for cab drivers around the world these days who pay thousands of dollars to have their taxi license and “taxi point” only to see those privileges mean nothing with Uber on the scene.

Naturally, cab drivers stood their ground and said, “This is our territory. This is how it’s done.”

Uber’s response? “Not anymore.”

As we know, rapid, massive change isn’t always received well and can cause emotions to run high. In Brazil, angry cab drivers attacked Uber drivers in retaliation against the disruption Uber was causing to their livelihoods. It reached a point when taxi drivers saw a black car, they’d assume it was an Uber Black; they would then proceed to break the car’s windows, dent the hood and, in a few rare cases, physically hurt the drivers. While violence is never the answer, what the cab drivers did is a perfectly natural emotional response to the threats they felt from change.

This same type of disruption and subsequent retaliation is currently happening in every market around the world in boardrooms, classrooms and cubicles. VUCA is the cause, and it is now the norm rather than the exception in most situations.

Navigating change has never been easy, but in today’s VUCA environment, it can feel almost impossible. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, and it essentially defines conditions in the 21st century workplace.

VUCA has been trending for the past several years, catching many people off guard from first-world countries. Due to these new world conditions, centuries-old institutions are crumbling or being questioned. Institutions such as schools, work, government, and even the church are now being questioned as new and improved models are coming forth.

When I first heard stories about people who’d never experienced a VUCA environment talking about these conditions, my initial response was, “Oh my God, of course! That’s VUCA.”

I recognized it right away. I recognized it because VUCA has defined my life since I was two years old. Growing up in a “third world country,” I was exposed to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity every day. It was my reality.

For those for whom VUCA is new, their response to it is quite different. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients tell me, “Oh my God, Claudio, we don’t know what’s happening” as they look around their organization and see nothing but VUCA’s handprint on everything.

While having experienced VUCA for as long as I have certainly gives me a slight edge in knowing how to respond in any number of different situations, I am still learning every day how to best address the demands of 21st century leadership.

What does the presence of VUCA mean for organizations and their leaders? For starters, to successfully lead in a VUCA environment requires more than acquiring an external set of skills or focusing on things like wardrobe, posture, and communication style. While these factors have their place, effective leadership also requires addressing who you are being on the inside.

A good analogy to focusing on who you are being on the inside is when you go skydiving. My instructor, Sargento Magalhães, always reminded us that the place to open the reserve parachute is always located in the same region in the body, no matter if we were upside down, twisting, turning, or spinning. The same can be said of navigating in a VUCA environment. No matter what VUCA conditions you have around you, you can always access your internal compass to know what your next move needs to be.

Takeaway Question: How is VUCA present in your company or organization? What is its impact?

This is an excerpt of my book “The Samurai Samba Vinci Way: How to Improve Your Executive Presence, Increase Trust and Lead Your Team at a World-Class Level” available at Amazon


I will never forget the first time I went to India. I was sent there to oversee a market research project and was welcomed by my hosts, Mamata and Rajjat. I usually rent a car when I travel, but in India, I didn’t dare drive for several reasons.

The first one concerns navigation. While GPS works well in big cities, it doesn’t work so well in the countryside. That is not due to poor reception (even though that’s the case for some parts of the country); rather, it is because many streets have no signs, and many of the roads are winding.

As Pulkit, an Indian friend once told me, directions in India are given like this:

“After you see the tree on the corner, you will see a one-eyed cow. As you pass the cow, turn right.”

Of course, he was joking. But I totally know what he means.

In many countries, there are no formal rules of the road the way there are in countries like America. For instance, Brazil has lanes exclusively for turning left or right. Brazilians seldom obey these rules, however, because they know there will always be someone who will let them in. Not only that, but there is an unspoken rule in Brazil that if you follow the rules to a T, you are considered a bit too square and can be taken advantage of easily. This perception has been slowly changing, but I think it will take some decades to take full effect. Also, speed limits, stop signs and traffic lights are rarely acknowledged — unless a police officer, a speed camera or a red light camera is nearby.

I have been living internationally for 22 years, and every time I go back to Brazil, my friends tell me how lucky I am to live in countries where order exists and people respect the rules. My response is often, “Brazilians would obey the rules if they were more strictly enforced.”

A case in point: in one of my trips back to São Paulo, I was driving just over the speed limit (you didn’t read that) at Avenida 23 de Maio, and I noticed that everyone was going “really slow” compared to what they used to do. That’s when I noticed that there were speed cameras mounted along the road roughly every 200 yards! Who says that Brazilians cannot follow rules?

Going back to my time in India, the most fascinating aspect of driving there is the hidden code of conduct that is not apparent to the outsider. In Europe, the US and some other first-world countries, street signs exist that signal when to stop, when to go, and who has the right of way. As you learn those rules to pass your driver’s license exam, you become more competent as a driver. In India, some of these rules exist, but a more intricate and fascinating unwritten code of conduct is at play. It’s not explicit; it’s just known.

For instance, when you get to a roundabout, it seems like everyone is entering it at the same time, but there is such a magical flow that no car bumps into another car, tuk-tuk, motorcycle, bicycle, camel, cow, pedestrian. (You get my drift.) To a foreigner, it feels like they have a very developed sixth sense, like those schools of fish swimming in synchrony that we have all seen on nature channels.

In many ways, being a leader in the 21st century is like learning to drive in a different country. Some basic rules exist, like don’t run over pedestrians or kill people. But beyond that, the nuances and expectations of leadership do not adhere to a common set of principles and can change depending on what region you find yourself needing to navigate.

Coming from Brazil, I know what it’s like not to have rules. Compared to America, Brazil can look like a free-for-all, so where you come from can determine your leadership style, your expectations, and how you communicate.

Leadership in the 21st century needs an internal roadmap. New leaders often feel like they’ve just climbed behind the wheel of a new car and are on their way to Delhi, only to end up missing the turn at the one-eyed cow and finding themselves in Mumbai. Think of the Samurai Samba Vinci Way™ as the GPS for your new role as a leader. It can get you to your destination and guide you through new territories, helping you gain confidence even if you haven’t figured everything out yet. It can help you improve your communication skills and uplevel your executive presence. Because it draws on a centralized set of universal principles on being a great leader, anyone can use this GPS anywhere in the world and experience positive results while avoiding common communication pitfalls and problems, thus increasing trust on the way.

Takeaway Question: In what ways have you changed the way you navigate the new world of work? In what ways could you improve?

Excerpt from Claudio’s book “The Samurai Samba Vinci Way: How to Improve Your Executive Presence, Increase Trust and Lead Your Team at a World-Class Level” available on Amazon.
#leadership #selfawareness #culturaldiversity