Sensemaking of complexity: leadership in financial services

Satish Raghavendran (Vice President and US India Operations Leader, at Deloitte Research, Andhra Pradesh, India)
Priti S. Rajagopalan (Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting India PVT Ltd, Bangalore, Karnataka, India)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Publication date: 3 May 2011



Unprecedented complexity is reshaping the financial services industry and presenting formidable challenges to financial services leaders and their organizations. “Sensemaking of Complexity: Leadership in Financial Services,” highlights seven leadership principles that could help leaders and their organizations respond effectively to the complexities inherent in financial services today.


After in‐depth secondary research on the topic of leadership and events in the financial services industry, the report offers a novel and holistic approach to managing complexity in today's marketplace.


Beyond the leadership principles, the research suggests that values, competencies and motivations – or “VCMs” – are like an organization's DNA, or the building blocks of organizational behavior, and therefore the basis for real improvement across an organization's many dimensions. VCMs play a critical role in the outcome of change initiatives and an organization's capacity to adapt, yet they are often overlooked in the leadership dialogue.

Practical implications

VCMs that are well aligned with the seven leadership principles can help empower the effective functioning of organizational levers – such as intelligence and risk management, corporate governance, business models, talent processes and organizational culture – and enhance an organization's ability to adapt to complexity, drive strategic agendas, and improve day‐to‐day operations.


Unprecedented interdependencies in the financial services industry may require a move away from the status quo of many leadership strategies, which tend to deal with complexity in a disjointed fashion. Instead, leaders may need to uncover and understand the interconnected root causes of complexity within their organizations and in the marketplace. We believe a focus on leadership principles and the right set of values, competencies, and motivations to support them can help leaders and their organizations systematically and holistically react to and manage their complicated competitive environments.



Raghavendran, S. and Rajagopalan, P. (2011), "Sensemaking of complexity: leadership in financial services", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 19-28.

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