Five Leadership Literacies needed for the Digital Age of Disruption

  • Bob Johansen

We are moving towards a future that rewards clarity but punishes certainty, says our next thought leader Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow at Institute For The Future, IFTF in Silicon Valley.

Bob Johansen is a leader, researcher and advisor to many large organizations such as P&G, Walmart, McKinsey, United Rentals, and Syngenta, as well as major universities and non-profit and public organizations.  Bob Johansen is also an author/ co-author of ten books.

In this blog-post, and the related podcast episode, we will revisit the New Leadership Literacies needed in the future digital age and the world of VUCA – characterized by increasing Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.

The leadership literacies are researched and further described by Bob Johansen in his latest book ”The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a future of extreme disruption and distributed everything”,  published in autumn of 2017.

”There will still be many problems that can be solved, but they will be solved mostly by people who work for leaders, in some sense of the term “work for.” Leaders will deal mostly with dilemmas.”- Bob Johansen

At Digoshen, we first met Bob Johansen during our journeys to Silicon Valley, where he works at Institute For The Future in Palo Alto.  We have been learning from his insights on the future of leadership and taken IFTFs insightful course in foresight.

Institute For The Future is the longest running future think tank founded in the 1960s, with the impressive track record of 60-80% of their predictions coming true.

The logo of IFTF is also a representation of their work. If you look at the logo closely it is quite hard to read, but if you move away from it, it becomes clearer – and it actually reads IFTF. IFTFs ambition is to help us move away and get more clarity and better perspective, in order to judge the current.

Photo:  IFTF

The Five Leadership literacies

Bob shares in this interview, as well as in his book, that there are five future leadership literacies that will be critical to learn for both leaders and board members.

Listen to the interview in the episode of our podcast “Exploring Leaders” with Bob Johansen about himself, IFTF and find more insights about the five leadership literacies.

The five leadership literacies are;

Learn to Look Backward from the Future.

Leaders need to leap ahead as much as 10 years and work backwards to identify implications and opportunities for today. With the current amount of noise, contrary to belief, it is easier to see long trends, compared to what will happen next year. Leaders need to have that longer perspective to create a good plan of action, one that creates purpose and clarity and preferably expressed as a story.

Voluntarily Engage in Fear.

As the world going forward will include such amount of uncertainty of many conflicting trends, we as leaders will need to learn to lead in much more unknown territories than before. The most powerful technique to practice and learn will be through gaming and to facilitate live experiments, to proactively find ways to engage with risk in smaller scale. Bob has found that people who has played video games likely have an advantage in the new world.

Embrace Shape-shifting Organizations.

Many of us have learnt to lead in hierarchical structures and build them up a to grow with scale, whilst in the future hierarchies will come and go as they are needed. The new distributed computing networks gives birth to both new business models as well as new types of leadership. Bob explains further in the interview what it means the organization grows from the edges, and you will not want to miss who Bob found already make use of shape-shifting organizations better than most of the rest of us…

Be There even when you’re Not There.

As we move towards decentralized and distributed organizations, as shape-shifting organizations, leaders will need to have a presence at all times, anyplace, anytime. Leaders will need to proactively chose different approaches and digital tools including social media in their leadership to be role models and feel present and close to their employees, customers and partners, even when they are at distance.

”All leaders will have to be digitally savvy enough to make good media choices and to use the media well.
The blended-reality world is moving fast. It is already too late to catch up—but it’s a great time to leapfrog.” – Bob Johansen

Create and Sustain Positive Energy.

To thrive in a future of extreme disruption, leaders must both manage their own energy, as well as encourage, be role models and reward positive energy and well-being. In the highly uncertain future hope will be a key variable, the belief and inspiration of a positive realistic future will be a differentiator for good leaders.

Photo:  IFTF

Learn more about the future and the needed leadership

You find more depth and many insightful examples about the future of leadership in Bob Johansen’s book ”The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a future of extreme disruption and distributed everything”

” The type of people who will succeed in shape-shifting organizations will be full of grit, hope, and optimism. It will be up to leaders to keep people hopeful and optimistic; in turn they will be rewarded with gritty people who will see adversity and change as an opportunity rather than a challenge.”- Bob Johansen

To understand more about the world of work in the future you get many inspirational insights by IFTFs Executive Director Marina Gorbis, discussing the History and Future of Work .

For a glimpse of the Foresight Approach to predicting the future through gaming you can watch this video with Jane McGonigal, IFTF’s Director of Game Research and Development, which we referred to also in an earlier Digoshen blogpost on How successful leaders ensure foresights and ambidextrous, shape-shifting, organizations to increase value creation.

IFTF shares some of their insights in ground breaking reports, a recent and relevant one is The report on human machine partnerships – emerging technologies impact on society and work in 2030 .

For more deep dive you can explore some of Bob Johansen’s previous books Leaders Make the Future and The Reciprocity Advantage, as well as Marina Gorbis’ The Nature of the Future and Jane McGonigals Super Better.

Learn more about Institute For The Future also via their website, and follow them at LinkedIn (IFTF) and Twitter at @iftf, their Executive Director Marina Gorbis at @mgorbis, and Jane McGonigal at @avantgame .

For inspiration by audio, you can turn to IFTF’s futurist podcast series For Future Reference.

About Digoshen

At Digoshen, we believe that Companies, Boards and Business Leadership Teams need to understand more of the digital world to fully leverage the potential when bringing their business into the digital age.

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These interviews are shared both on my own blog as well as on the blog of Digoshen, where I am Chairman of the Board.

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