5 New Leadership Literacies to Prepare for the Future

How Leaders Thrive in a Future of Extreme Disruption

If you want to get ready for the future, you need new leadership literacies. That’s what noted futurist Bob Johansen teaches those who aspire to lead well into the future. If you’re a rising star and want to prepare for what’s ahead, this book outlines future trends and skills you need in the decades to come.

Bob Johansen is a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley. He has worked with global organizations from P&G to Disney. He’s the author or co-author of ten books. His newest is The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything.

 

“Leaders will be very good at seeding hope for others.” -Bob Johansen

 

Warning: Disruptions Ahead

Share a few current trends that will disrupt everything in the next ten years.

I distinguish between trends (patterns of change you can extrapolate with confidence) and disruptions (breaks in the patterns of change). The next ten years will be a VUCA World—Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous—and it will get worse over the next decade. On the other hand, it will be possible to succeed, make the world a better place, and even thrive in the VUCA World. These new literacies will allow you to thrive, not just survive.

We think we are connected today, but the next 10 years will be a period of explosive connectivity and asymmetric upheaval. In this future world of dramatically amplified digital connectivity, anything that can be distributed will be distributed.

 

“Leaders will perform best at the edge of their competence.”-Bob Johansen

 

Master Distributed Leadership

You say that, “Leadership will be much less centralized and more distributed,” which seems to be happening today and accelerating more tomorrow. How will this impact us? How will organizational structures change in the future?

Shape-shifting organizations have no center, and they can’t be controlled. Hierarchies will come and go as they are needed. Hierarchies will become less common since they are more rigid.

Anything that can be distributed will be distributed.

 

“Leadership will be much less centralized and more distributed in the future.”-Bob Johansen

 

Copyright Bob Johansen; Used by Permission

 

“Leaders will have to practice foresight, insight, and action.”-Bob Johansen

Your Playbook to Digital Transformation

Digital Business Transformation concept with arrow of compass (3

Reach for the Future

Nearly every business is impacted by digital transformation.

The key question for leaders is how to overcome the pull of the past to reach for the digital future. The authors of Digital@Scale: The Playbook You Need to Transform Your Company have developed a playbook based on years of McKinsey experience and research.

I recently spoke to author Anand Swaminathan, Senior Partner in McKinsey’s San Francisco office, about the book and his work in the area of digital transformation.

 

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” -Leo Buscaglia

 

3 Barriers to Change 

What do leaders need to know about identifying the barriers to change?

In our experience, executives face a fundamental conflict: Change requires a sense of urgency while highly-efficient organizations tend to have high levels of inertia. When business is going well, managers and employees generally only pay lip service to change requirements. Knowing that, there are three barriers we’ve identified:

  1. The good is the enemy of the better: Efficient, currently successful organizations often slow down the necessary change: Why cannibalize what is successful today? Why destroy efficiency gains of a ‘well-oiled machine’?
  2. Watch out for your top team: Ironically, today’s most successful managers might be the ones slowing down your transformation efforts since they have the most to lose. Transformation needs to start with the person at the top, and it’s often those who have grown accustomed to success that find it most difficult to change course.
  3. Your DNA takes time to change: Don’t underestimate the time and effort required to change deep-rooted mindsets and ways of working. Your legacy business exerts a natural gravitational pull that will stop all meaningful change unless you’re persistent and change at enough scale to break through

 

“Transformation is often more about unlearning than learning.” -Richard Rohr

 

What is the role of the CEO when it comes to digital transformation?

The successful digital transformations we see out there have one common denominator: the CEO spearheading and promoting the digital transformation. They are making it front and center of their personal agenda. Only if change is demonstrated and exemplified by the top management will the necessary changes to structures, processes, management instruments, as well as the establishment of new skills and new IT systems, be successful. That can mean using new technologies, challenging existing ways of doing business, and making the bold decisions necessary to change the trajectory of the business.

 

Assess Your Readiness

How can management assess the current strategy of the company and its readiness for digital transformation?Digital@Scale book cover

That’s two questions. The first is understanding your strategy, and that requires looking at sources of value – where they’re created in your business and in your sector. Most important, you need to look at where sources of value are being created outside of your sector – that’s where some of the biggest changes (and challenges) might be happening.

Then you need to look at where you are today and what needs to change. There are lots of assessments and diagnostics out there, but you need to take a cold-eyed view of where you are as a digital business and what needs to be in place to drive value at scale. As an example, we have developed a comprehensive benchmark to derive a company’s Digital Quotient (DQTM), road-tested with several hundred organizations across the globe. It helps leadership to take stock compared to best practices across sectors and within its own industry.

In addition to the benchmark, some questions that management should start with to determine the urgency and their organization’s readiness for change include:

  • Are we assessing whether we can use our strengths to penetrate completely new industries within the current rules?
  • Are we actively creating an ecosystem of partners, customers and suppliers that will last into the digital world?
  • Have we defined a feasible timescale and meaningful KPIs to reliably measure success or failure?

 

“Transformation literally means going beyond your form.” -Wayne Dyer

 

Break the Silos

Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For

Become a Good Authority

What if chasing balance was actually making us unhappy?

What’s the true purpose of work?

 

“Change the game, don’t let the game change you.” -Macklemore

 

Personal and professional growth. We often think they’re different. We live our lives as if the personal and professional are in neat little silos, as if one didn’t affect the other.

I’ve often said that leaders help people with the personal, not just the professional. And sharing a little of the personal may make a big impact in the professional.

The two are interrelated.

And so, when I read Jonathan Raymond’s new work, Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For, I was excited to find a book that explained why this is…and how to use it to become a better leader. Jonathan is the former CEO of EMyth and now the owner of Refound, an advisory firm that offers leadership training and coaching. And I think his take on “good authority” will have you nodding along with what we want from the very best leaders.

 

“When you make peace with authority, you become authority.” –Jim Morrison

 

Own Your Contribution

Contrast good versus bad authority. What are a few attributes you would think of?

I’d say the first attribute is in the willingness to own your role as an authority in the first place. I see too many modern leaders try to abdicate that responsibility, either outright or in subtle ways, and try to be nice at the expense of giving people the boundaries they need to grow. The main attribute of bad authority is when a leader doesn’t own their contribution to a stuck dynamic or problematic situation. For example, a leader who hasn’t provided a reasonable timeline to reach a goal and then blames the team for not delivering on it fast enough. Good authority is the art of owning your contribution, being transparent with your team, and then moving forward in a collaborative way.

 

“Our strengths are not our own until they are freed of the burden of having to heal the past.” –Jonathan Raymond

 

Would you share a little about the concept of “borrowed authority”?

Borrowed authority is the idea that until we investigate the beliefs about authority we inherited from our parents and teachers – not to mention the business culture in general – we’re still borrowing our leadership style from the past instead of discovering the one that genuinely expresses who we are today. In Good Authority, I offer that the opposite of Good Authority isn’t bad authority, it’s borrowed authority. What I mean by that is that most leaders have good intentions, but until we do the work, we’re bogged down by ideas and beliefs about what it means to be the boss that hold us back and create pain and confusion for the employees in our care as a result.

 

“You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.” –Timothy O’Leary

 

Make it About Relationships

I want to ask about organizational culture. You say, “Nobody sets out to make their employees overwhelmed, stressed-out, and miserable.” I have to say that I read that and laughed, thinking, “If Jonathan only met one of my bad bosses, he’d think differently!” You’re right, of course, but people are overwhelmed and stressed. What’s are some ways to change a culture into one that is positive, empowered, and driven?

Good Authority CoverThis may sound odd, but the first problem is bad math. One of the things I ask leaders to do is to add up all the time they’re spending (1) doing re-work for a struggling employee, (2) mediating their interpersonal conflicts, (3) answering questions that they should be able to answer themselves, and (4) complaining to their spouse, partner or friends about how frustrated they are. The pivot is incredibly simple and goes against our conditioning, which is why we typically avoid it. The key to create a positive, empowered and driven culture is the exact same thing that will get you out of being overwhelmed and stressed. Repressing what you see and feel leads to emotional, mental, and physical problems, and it keeps that data away from the one person who needs to hear it in order to grow.

There’s an art to talking about work in a way that feels personally relevant to your employee, but it boils down to this: Give them feedback not about tasks and projects but about how they’re showing up as a human being. Make it about relationships, feeling their impact on others, how they avoid taking risks—those are the things that people will immediately see as helping them get better at work and at life at the same time. There’s a whole new type of organizational culture that opens up from that simple shift.

 

Leadership Tip: More Yoda, Less Superman

 

How to Become a Great Listener

What are some techniques you use to help coach someone who has problems with listening? How can we all learn to be better listeners at a deeper level?

Before we talk about the deeper cut, one simple technique that’s often used in mediation applies well in the workplace in general. Have the person you’re trying to help repeat back what they heard before responding. Highlight for them what the gaps are between what was said (and, even more importantly, how it was said) and what they heard and how they interpreted it. There’s a lifetime’s worth of personal growth work there.

 

“We teach best what we most need to learn.” –Richard Bach

 

At a deeper level, and this is something I work on every day, is to re-examine what we think our value is as leaders. That’s a lot of what Good Authority is about: to learn how the highest value we can add to our teams, and in the rest of our lives, is to put our thumb on the side of the scale that’s about creating the space for others to discover that next better version of themselves, as opposed to tending to fill that space ourselves. I love leaders and have so much respect for anyone who throws their heart into a problem with no guarantee of success. The pivot is to see how not everyone works that way, and that to create the organization that can do more than you can on your own, you have to listen for those other voices.

Finally, it comes down to not shooting the messenger. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve seen, in fact I’ve never seen one where this isn’t true, where one person becomes a scapegoat for the cultural dysfunction and is moved out (fired or pushed into quitting), and the message they were carrying never sees the full light of day.  It’s a basic rule of group dynamics, but I see CEOs do it all the time, moving out the ‘disgruntled’ employee instead of leaning into the conversation and discovering the most powerful brand ambassador they’ve got.

 

Tip: Focus more on who people are and less on deadlines and tasks.

 

Let Go of the Past

How about letting go of the past? What advice do you give to someone who is letting the past limit their future?

Find a way to get in relationship with it. Meaning, when you notice yourself re-hashing or cycling in an old story, imagine a friend was telling you that story, what would you tell them? It’s a life’s work for sure, but learn to reframe our past in terms of how it made us the person we are today. I heard this phrase again recently that I absolutely love: “The past didn’t happen to us, it happened for us.”  To be clear, I’m not suggesting people try and transcend or gloss over traumatic or otherwise difficult personal experiences, only that we hold a bit of double-vision about them. Let yourself feel whatever there is to feel about whatever it is that you feel it’s holding back. Cry, laugh, roll up the car window on the freeway and let out a yell from the depths of your soul. By giving yourself permission to let it be what it is all the way, only then do you open up the room to see it in a new way. The paradox is that you don’t have to do any additional work to do this. It’s the process of giving yourself permission to feel that brings that higher mind back online, and you can move forward with confidence and a sense of self that might surprise you.

 

“Shake it off.” –Taylor Swift

 

How to Increase Accountability

What Leaders and the Declaration Signers Have in Common

July 4, 1776

If you’ve ever been to Philadelphia in the summer, you know how hot it is.

Imagine yourself there in 1776. You’re a representative of one of the colonies, wearing a dress coat, a shirt with sleeves tightly cuffed at your wrist and, of course, your silk stockings.

It’s now July 4th and the document is ready for signature. With its final approval, the colonies will declare independence from Great Britain, ending a long debate and all revisions of the document. The United States, a new nation, will be born.

You approach the table and see John Hancock’s signature in massive letters, which he says is so that “King George can see it without spectacles.”

Your turn to sign. The other delegates look at you expectantly.

You realize the weight of the moment, but you also realize that, by signing, your own life will be in danger. To many, you will be a traitor. If the revolution fails, you will hang for just a few letters on a piece of paper.

You push those thoughts aside and sign.

Your signature, along with the others, just changed the world.

A new beginning. The United States of America is now born.

The new country was far from perfect. The horrific practice of slavery wouldn’t end until the Civil War nearly ripped the country apart. Women and minorities had no vote.

Still, the United States of America would become a country that most of us are proud to call home. We value family, freedom, God and country.

Back to July 4th, 1776.

 

Your Leadership Moment

It was an incredible leadership moment.

As I reflect this week on the July 4th holiday, I think about the leadership lessons from that day:

“Leaders take risks to assure a better future.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders know growth often comes from the uncomfortable.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders inspire others to a better vision of themselves.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders don’t wait for perfection.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders know that imperfect progress is better than stagnation.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders believe more in tomorrow’s promise than today’s problems.” -Skip Prichard

 

Decision Time

Does Your Organization Have The Right Attitude?

What’s Your Organizational Attitude?

What distinguishes great customer service?

Is your website easy to navigate?

Would customers describe the experience with your organization as amazing?

Some companies are leveraging the power of the Internet in such a powerful way they are increasing market share, earnings, and revenue at an incredible rate. Others are struggling, not fully realizing the potential or understanding what it takes to win with today’s technology.

 

“Net attitude is a state of mind.” –John Patrick

 

It’s All About Attitude

What differentiates winners from losers?

John Patrick’s answer is that it is all about attitude. He says companies with a “net attitude” have an extraordinary advantage over those who don’t.

Having a net attitude “makes constituents happy,” says John Patrick. Because your “website is your brand,” it’s important to make it accessible, easy to use, and focused relentlessly on a positive customer experience.

 

“The prescription starts with a single word, attitude.” –John Patrick

 

Beyond this, John indicates business vocabulary needs to change to adapt to a new mindset.

John believes we are only using about 10-15% of the power of the Internet. The potential represents an extraordinary opportunity ahead.

Money and scale are not enough. It takes the right attitude. And any entrepreneur or company who adopts a net attitude has a sustainable advantage that will propel them to greater success.

 

“Think big, act bold, start simple, and iterate fast.” –John Patrick

 

Copyright John Patrick, Used by Permission Copyright John Patrick, Used by Permission