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The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything

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A rapid and massively disruptive shift from centralized to distributed organizations has already begun. But current leadership practices were designed for large, centralized organizations, making them increasingly obsolete. Bob Johansen, who has been projecting future trends from Silicon Valley since 1968, outlines five literacies leaders need to develop to cope with this brave new world.
Johansen says leaders need the literacy of projecting themselves into the future and -looking backwards- to make sure they are preparing for potential new developments. They have to cultivate the literacy of voluntarily engaging with their fear in a safe way, using simulations and gaming, so they can immerse themselves in the things they're worried about and deal with them. Distributed leadership is a third vital literacy--leaders need to know how to guide organizations that have no center, grow from the edges, and can't be controlled. In a globalized world they must master multimedia leadership--the literacy of having presence and influence even when they're not physically present. And finally, to stay on top of all this, they need the literacy of creating positive energy: leaders have to be extremely fit, physically and mentally, to keep their own energy and that of their organizations high to cope with this era of extreme disruption. Johansen presents dramatic and mind-expanding examples of how forward-looking organizations are developing these literacies and offers readers sage advice on how to cultivate them.

192 pages, Hardcover

Published September 5, 2017

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About the author

Bob Johansen

9 books22 followers
Bob Johansen is distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley, where he helps top leaders around the world prepare for and shape the future. Bob works with corporations such as McKinsey, Tesco, UPS, Kellogg, Syngenta, and McDonald's - as well as a range of major universities and non profits. "The Reciprocity Advantage" is Bob's ninth book. A social scientist by training, Bob holds a BS from the University of Illinois, where he played varsity basketball, and a PhD from Northwestern University. To learn more about "The Reciprocity Advantage" visit the book's site at reciprocityadvantage.com

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Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Reid Mccormick.
375 reviews4 followers
February 25, 2019
Here is a question: what is the difference from predicting the future in ten years or imagining the future ten years out and working back from there? Answer: I don’t really know.

That’s the how I feel about this book. Yes, you can split hairs and talk about how imagining the future and working back is more strategic, but I feel like in the end, you are just saying the same thing but using different words.
I didn’t find this book to provide me with any practical insight. For example, there is a chapter that discusses the importance of presence in a world where physical space is less important or the “new literacy of being there when you are not there.” Then you turn the page to a new chapter and it immediately starts out with “When I walk into a room, I radiate positive energy.”

Leadership is messy and it is full of contradictions but this book felt all over the map. I don’t think the author’s words are untrue, but I didn’t find them insightful. Perhaps I am too narrow minded or foolish to understand the author’s insight and wisdom, but in the end I did not learn from this book.

"The most dangerous thing you can do is to pretend that you know something that you actually don't know."
122 reviews5 followers
September 27, 2017
If you haven’t been overwhelmed with the ever changing landscape in both our business and personal lives, you will be. Technology and the connected world that we live in is beginning to master us instead of the other way around. Moving forward everything including people, systems, and organizations will be distributed differently and disrupted according to Bob Johansen.

We have been slowly trying to decentralize and change the structure of our organizations but will it happen fast enough? Change will force us to become more flexible and decentralized. We need to prepare our organizations and people for the change.

Bob is a futurist thinker and his book certainly sparks new thoughts and ideas. He wants us all to stretch ourselves to think about how to handle disruption and decentralization. He offers some key ideas that we as leaders should attach to and examine how we can have an impact. They include:

Forecasting the future
Use low risk gaming spaces
Lead shape shifting organizations
Be a dynamic presence
Keep your personal energy high and positive. Do the same to empower others and keep their energy high

As a leader you can’t afford NOT to read Bob’s book. You are the future and need to think about how both you and your organization need to be prepared for future change. Bob’s approaches are novel, innovative, and practical.
Profile Image for Nathan Brant.
214 reviews
September 11, 2018
Learn to look backward from the future
Voluntarily engage in fear
Embrace shape-shifting organizations
Be there even when you're not there
Create and sustain positive energy

These are Bob Johansen's new leadership literacies. I had the opportunity to hear the author speak to a group of YMCA CEOs and CVOs last spring. His book has been on my "to read" pile for the last several months.

As a distinguished fellow from the Institute for the Future, Bob has made a career in looking ahead. Any effort to describe the book would do it a dis-service. Suffice it to say, he's able paint the picture of a world that will require a new style of leadership competencies.

Personally, I struggled with the first half of the book. The second half of the book caught me and held me. Perhaps it took be a while to get into the right frame of mind to absorb these ideas. If you start it, stick with it to the end. It's well worth it.
364 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2023
Interesting read about what this author, a futurist, believes will be the ten most important things leaders in the near future will need to be. Nothing very surprising, other than these two that stuck out to me:

Leaders will be expert video gamers. This surprised me, but the author argues things like video game achievements will be on resumes soon. His reasoning is that with modern games it is a great indicator of someone's ability to accomplish tasks, work in teams, excel against competition, and more. Not sure if I buy this based on my experience, but it's an interesting take.

The best leaders will be the fittest leaders. The impact of one person in leadership is becoming more and more important, and sustainable. The right person has such a big impact on a company that we will see a huge interest in health and fitness among the best leaders. This is already coming true now, but I thought his argument here was well done.

Profile Image for Victoria.
78 reviews
July 31, 2019
Included a broad assortment of advice and forecasting that tried to be both vague and specific at the same time. While there were a few small tidbits I pulled from it, the presentation of the information just felt like someone pulling pieces of paper out of a bag with futuristic words on them, and then asked to speak on each for 20 minutes.
Profile Image for Glenn.
13 reviews
June 2, 2020
Jumped into this after seeing Bob recently discuss the turmoil caused by the Covid pandemic. This was published in 2017 to help us think about the next 10 years. As a “baby boomer” it was helpful in recognizing some key trends that may shape the future. The Institute of the Future material has always been helpful to me, this book is no exception.
Profile Image for Manoj Joshi.
86 reviews3 followers
July 2, 2018
Bob does It again. This is a book for researchers, thinkers, strategists and leaders who anticipate disruption and wish to sail through. I took this for reading only holidays to Europe and enjoyed every word
July 26, 2018
a great window into the wisdom of future. I’d recommend it to anyone that has a healthy anxiousness about what the future for leaders will look like. if you’re not up for change then maybe this is not the book for you.
Profile Image for Don.
230 reviews
August 26, 2018
Interesting take on the impact of technology and our current circumstances and their impact on leadership. Worth a read for leaders and aspiring leaders - especially the chapter on ‘clarity’ versus ‘certainty.’
Profile Image for Randy Howard.
9 reviews3 followers
May 5, 2019
Very enlightening, especially for someone who does not consider himself "tech savvy."
Profile Image for Tracy Brower.
Author 5 books39 followers
October 8, 2019
It was okay. Not sure I learned a lot new. There is a lot about tools and technology. I did like the concept that if you’re going to fail you should do so in an interesting way.
Profile Image for Kevin.
3 reviews
June 1, 2021
His points sound on point, though nothing really surprises me. Maybe this book is more eye-opening for older generations (35+ years) or people who haven't been working in Silicon Valley.
19 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2023
Although a bit repetitive and self-promotional at times, this book contained several thought-provoking takeaways which lend themselves to easy application.
Profile Image for Jim.
790 reviews
October 3, 2017
The book presents some interesting views on the future of leadership in dispersed organizations.
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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