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Synopsis of Leaders Make the Future

By Bob Johansen

Johansen argues convincingly that in a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (what he calls the VUCA world), leaders must learn new skills in order to create a better future. His identification of the “Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World,” however, is less convincing as I believe an equal case could be made for other important leadership attributes.

Here is a brief summary of Johansen’s list:

  1. Maker Instinct: Leaders should approach their responsibilities with a commitment to build and grow their ideas and connect this energy with others.
  2. Clarity: Leaders should be clear about what they are creating, but be flexible about how it is accomplished.
  3. Dilemma Flipping: Leaders should turn problems that cannot be solved into opportunities.
  4. Immersive Learning: Leaders must be learners, especially by doing.
  5. Bio-empathy: Leaders understand, respect, and learn from nature
  6. Constructive Depolarization: Leaders must be able to calm tense situations and bring people from different backgrounds together for constructive engagement.
  7. Quiet Transparency: Leaders should be open and authentic about what matters without engaging in self-promotion.
  8. Rapid Prototyping: Leaders should work quickly to create early versions of innovations.
  9. Smart Mob Organizing: Leaders must create, engage, and maintain social networks.
  10. Commons Creating: Leaders should stimulate, grow, and nurture shared assets that benefit others.

Forecasting is about provocation, not prediction. [Page 8]

Beyond do-it-yourself, leaders need to nurture do-it-ourselves. [Page 28 – The Maker Instinct]

An historic example of a problem disguised as a dilemma comes from World War II. General George Patton, during the Allied invasion of German-occupied France, came upon his staff as it was plotting strategy. Patton’s staff leaders were depressed by the hopelessness of the current troop placements they were analyzing, which showed that the Allied Forces were completely encircled by German troops. Patton looked at the same hopeless troop configurations and said something like: “They’ve got us surrounded again, poor bastards.” Patton saw that by surrounding the Allied Forces, the Germans had thinned their resources so that U.S. troops could break through the German circle and gain an advantage. He saw where the enemy was strong, but he also saw where his own leaders were weak: their point of view was limited. Where Patton’s staff interpreted the situation as hopeless, Patton saw it as an opportunity for a new kind of attack. He flipped the dilemma they were facing by seeing the same data in a very different way. Being surrounded is only hopeless if you stay where you are. [Page 69 – Dilemma Flipping]

...has reframed work/life balance as work/life "navigation"... [Page 134 - Quiet Transparency]

As Alan Kay was known for saying when he was at Xeroc PARC, "The purpose of research is to fail, but to fail in an interesting way." [Page 140 - Rapid Prototyping]