Leaders Make the FutureThe next decade will be tough for leaders.

“Our natural, business, organization and social systems will reach tipping points of extreme challenge, and some of these systems are likely to break,” writes futurist Bob Johansen in the just-released updated edition of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World.

The book doesn’t mince words. The forecast from Johansen and colleagues at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) “is the most frightening I have ever done,” Johansen says.

But the forecast is also about hope, because with insight into the forces and patterns that are shaping the world, we can choose how to respond to and create the future.

CCL has taken Johansen’s message to heart, for itself and for its clients and partners. CEO John Ryan was an early fan of the first edition of Leaders Make the Future and it became required reading for the CCL board and leadership team. Ryan and Johansen later met, opening the door to collaboration for the second edition. CCL’s contributions link leadership research and client-driven knowledge to help readers learn and apply the 10 new skills described by Johansen. CCL also developed self-assessment that is included in the book and available online.

In the coming months, Leading Effectively will run a series of articles based on the book and the 10 leadership skills. But first, a look into the future…

Two new forces — what Johansen calls “known unknowns” — will play out in the next 10 years: digital natives and cloud-served supercomputing. Both are obvious and yet “wildly unpredictable.”

Digital natives — those 16-years-old or younger in 2012 — will be “a disruptive force on a scale that we cannot yet imagine.” We know this is the first generation raised in a world of connectivity and social media — yet we don’t know how this will change their brains or behavior. Similarly, we can only see a glimpse of the impact of cloud-served supercomputing. Johansen argues that this technology will enable and amplify the biggest innovation opportunity in history: reciprocity-based innovation.

Five other forces in the IFTF forecast are:

  • Diasporas: New emerging economies. New diasporas will be values-linked social networks amplified by social media. Some diasporas will be rooted in history, others will be more modern such as climate-change diasporas, rural-to-urban diasporas, and bio-diasporas of people who share biological traits or health conditions. Diasporas often have a strong insider/outsider dynamic and leaders must understand and engage with them.
  • Civil Society: What will we choose to do together? There are many different ways to mix business, government, nonprofit and community interests all over the globe. Governments, markets and people will interact in complex ways in the future, and there will be many new opportunities to improve civic infrastructure and our ability to cooperate. Corporations are often more technologically advanced and faster to change than governments. Still, we need at least some common infrastructure and shared services to succeed.
  • Food: The flashpoint for rich-poor conflict. Over the next decade, food and water will be scarce in many parts of the world, and food safety will be a continuing challenge for all. Distribution of food will be just as important as producing it. The rich-poor gap will be largely a gap between the well-fed and the hungry.
  • Ecosystems: Navigation of life. Global climate disruption will be a storm cloud over the next decade and beyond. Leaders in the next decade will not just be leading organizations; they will be leading life and influencing the climate for generations ahead.
  • Amplified Individuals: Extending the human body. While many people will struggle to live at all, others will be healthier than normal and a few may enjoy much longer life spans. Minds, bodies and networks will all be connected in novel and powerful ways to create extended individuals who are amplified in ways we can only begin to imagine.

The future holds both danger and opportunity, writes Johansen. The question is, Are you listening for the signals and learning the skills that will help you navigate a rocky, complex future?

Next month — 10 new leadership skills. Plus, what stays the same?

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