This study evaluated the criticality of change leadership to business survival in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, focusing on Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE)-listed companies in the COVID-19-affected trading period of March to December 2020. As 21st-century VUCA environments are putting business survival under growing pressure, the study sought to verify how much change leadership could mitigate VUCA’s adverse impacts on viability. SPSS v.20 bivariate analysis was used to test the study’s alternative hypothesis and establish a correlation between the change leadership aspects of vision, understanding, clarity, and agility and business survival in a VUCA environment. Theoretical and empirical literature noted broad consensus on leadership’s importance for organizational change initiative success, especially in turbulent environments. A mixed-methods approach was used as the study was qualitative and quantitative. The study found that change leadership practice was common in ZSE companies during the studied COVID-19 period and most change and change leadership interventions were very feasible. It also found that the interventions were largely inevitable and significantly effective and that change leadership is crucial to business survival in a VUCA environment. Further, other factors besides change leadership were found significant for ZSE firms’ survival in the era. It was suggested that corporate sector resilience initiatives be established in order to empower local businesses to survive growing VUCA pressures, which could help to boost potential local and foreign corporate investor confidence. Further, creating inclusive business change leadership educational awareness forums and/or institutions can help to capacitate local businesses to survive inevitable future VUCA episodes.
Key words: Change leadership, change, business survival, viability, VUCA, COVID-19.
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