Leaders make the future


The second day of the Institute for the Future’s Ten Year Forecast retreat is now drawing to a close and I have an opportunity to sit back and reflect over the last 2 days, the people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, the information I have been inspired by and all the ideas batted around in the meetings, breaks, lunches, receptions and dinners we’ve had. A highly intense experience, only now I’m coming up for air so to speak.

So what are my key takeaways from this session? I believe some of it I am yet to articulate, but I have had a distinct sense of a hive mind phenomenon, the notion that much of the topics being talked about here I have seen signals and expressions of elsewhere and we have looked at it without completely being able to explain what it is. I had a very strong sense of this when listening to the excellent talk by Bob Johansen on Leaders Make the Future, his forthcoming book on the kinds of leadership behaviours that will shape the future as we know it. What was so interesting about Bob’s talk was how he identified many of the qualities and behaviours oftentimes exclusively in the domain of creative people, yet when we talk about leadership in organisations we invariably forget to look at the new forms of leadership coming from this segment of individuals. Creatives are, through their multiple literacies, their creative, expressive and persuasive abilities, able to capitalise on their creativity to enable a new kind of leadership, required for dealing open source and massive scale collaborations.

Bob Johansen highlights the 10 behaviours as follows:

  1. Maker Instinct – Ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making.
  2. Clarity – Ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future others cannot yet see. Leaders are very clear about what they are making, but very flexible about how it gets made.
  3. Dilemma Flipping – Ability to turn dilemmas – which, unlike problems, cannot be solved – into advantages and opportunities.
  4. Immersive Learning Ability – Ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments, to learn from them in a first person way.
  5. Bio-Empathy – Ability to see things from nature’s point of view; to understand, respect, and learn from nature’s patterns.
  6. Constructive Depolarising – Ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down – and bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement.
  7. Quiet Transparency – Ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you – without advertising yourself. If you advertise yourself, you become a big target.
  8. Rapid Prototyping – Ability to create quick early versions of innovations, with the expectation that later success will require early failures. Leaders will need a learn-as-you-go style of leadership that know how to learn from early setbacks and fail in interesting ways.
  9. Smart Mob Organising – Ability to create, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media.
  10. Commons Creating – Ability to seed, nurture and grow shared assets that can benefit other players – and sometimes allow competition at a higher level. Commons creating is the ultimate future leadership skill and it benefits from all the others

A great book. Got a copy already so will start reading it as soon as I finish A Guide to the Good Life – the ancient art of stoic joy by William B. Irvine – a beautifully written book investigating stoic philosophy and going back to Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and other notable Stoic philosophers, truly a brain elixir!]

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