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Metaphors for today’s leadership: VUCA world, millennial and “Cloud Leaders”

Alejandro Rodriguez (Program for Organization and Leadership, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA)
Yolanda Rodriguez (Academic and Enrollment Services, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 13 July 2015




The purpose of this paper is to evidence the scenarios any leader is currently facing in front of three specific situations: a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world (VUCA); a generation that is changing the way to form relationships, work and knowledge transfer;and the possibility for a “Cloud Leadership” to overcome today’s reality of constant change, redirection, new frontiers and formatting.


This paper seeks one theoretical entailment, so that the world today presented by Johansen (2012) from four perspectives needs to be considered from the perspective of leadership.


The paper views leadership as “a Cloud.” It brings new insights to a social and organizational analysis of leaders today. The metaphorical language is creative in the formative accompaniment of the Millennials, it provides and clarifies the orientation in all areas where they interact.

Research limitations/implications

Leaders leading Millennials face challenges with specific textures: convergence of traits, processes and outcomes with a leadership enriched by schools and theories immersed in a VUCA world where resiliency is a scarce commodity. Raising, building, taking advantage of the dynamism that each individual possesses, educating from the positive and toward the positive, is a benefit of a “Cloud Leader” in a VUCA world where Millennials have a strong presence.

Practical implications

This paper offers a kind of vignette of leadership to illustrate the theories, skills, abilities and different approaches converging within leaders for these coming years: the immersion in a VUCA world, leading a workforce with more Millennial copartners present each day and the metaphors that can help us better understand them, and being a “Cloud Leader.”

Social implications

Leadership is going to be a matter of discovering the positive energy in each person, to stimulate the best in every individual and develop the potential of everybody because this “energy” is a small assurance of the future. A leader who attempts to “bring out” the positive in each person, in every context in which he or she is immersed, a leader who seeks the best interventions possible according to his or her capabilities and resources, this is a leader we can call “a leader for the coming future: a Cloud Leader.”


In this paper the author uses metaphors as an interesting method to say something with multimodal meanings under the “umbrella concepts” of Millennial generation, and leadership style. It is argued that scientific reasoning does not solely exist in the individual’s head, but emerges in conjunction with the expressed representations.



Rodriguez, A. and Rodriguez, Y. (2015), "Metaphors for today’s leadership: VUCA world, millennial and “Cloud Leaders”", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 34 No. 7, pp. 854-866.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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