If you are not confused by current events, you are not paying attention.

So writes futurist Bob Johansen in the just-released updated edition of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World.

Uncertainty and complexity aren’t going away — and confusion will remain part of the mix. The next 10 years will be exceptionally volatile, with many make-or-break decisions to be made.

To survive, lead and create the future, Johansen argues that leaders must build and apply 10 new skills:

  1. Maker instinct. Ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making. How can you draw out your inner maker instinct and apply it to your leadership? Future leaders — working with others — will need both a can-do and a can-make spirit.
  2. Clarity. Ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot yet see. How can you communicate with clarity in confusing times, so you are simple without being simplistic?
  3. Dilemma flipping. Ability to turn dilemmas into advantages and opportunities. How can you improve your skills at dilemma flipping so that you succeed with challenges that cannot be solved and won’t go away?
  4. Immersive learning ability. Ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments and to learn from them in a first-person way. Do you have what it takes to learn by immersing yourself in new physical and virtual worlds that will take you out of your comfort zone?
  5. Bio-empathy. Ability to see things from nature’s point of view — to understand, respect and learn from nature’s patterns. Can you learn from nature and use that wisdom to inform your leadership?
  6. Constructive depolarizing. Ability to bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement. How can you calm and improve tense situations where people cannot agree?
  7. Quiet transparency. Ability to be open and authentic about what matters without being overly self-promoting. How do you lead so that you inspire credibility and trust?
  8. Rapid prototyping. Ability to create quick early versions of innovations, with the expectation that later success will require early failures. How can you do rapid prototyping that allows you to fail early, fail often and fail cheaply — while learning along the way?
  9. Smart mob organizing. Ability to create, engage with and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic or other media. How can you organize smart mobs using a range of media, choosing the best medium for each communication challenge?
  10. Commons creating. Ability to seed, nurture and grow shared assets that can benefit other players. How can you create settings within which both cooperation and competition may occur?

Moving beyond a new list of skills, what kind of leadership development or training can prepare us for the future? Leaders need to shore up the skills that are enduring (see below), but “immersion” is the key to learning the 10 new skills.

“Leaders must immerse themselves in the future and practice their skills in a low-risk environment,” Johansen explains. Participating in games, delving into small-scale situations that mimic larger trends and challenges, and practicing new behaviors are all ways immersion helps us prepare for the future.

In the coming months, Leading Effectively will look more closely at the 10 leadership skills and ways to immerse yourself and your team in relevant experiences. Meanwhile, you can rate yourself now: 10 New Leadership Skills for the Future.

Leadership: What Endures?

  • Get There Early. Leaders need to build the skill and organizational capacity to know when to move.
  • Physical and Mental Discipline. Leaders must develop physical and emotional energies that work for them — and inspire others.
  • Active Attention. Leaders need to filter out noise and distraction, stay centered and learn to see patterns.
  • Readiness Discipline. Leaders cannot predict, but they can prepare.
  • Urgent Patience. Leaders need to discern when people are overloaded, when they are overly confident — then adjust the pressure and urgency accordingly.
  • Story-telling and Listening. Leadership will continue to be about discovering and tell engaging stories to make sense of a situation and imagine a future.
  • Humble Strength. Leaders are needed who will act with courage and clear intent, in an authentic, engaging and self-effacing way.
  • Synchronicity. Leaders need to find meaning in coincidence, and make connections between today’s experience and future possibilities.

This article is adapted from Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World.




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