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Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World

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What future forces will affect a leaders ability to lead in the next year, 5 years, 10 years?

194 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2009

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About the author

Bob Johansen

9 books21 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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5 stars
48 (30%)
4 stars
57 (36%)
3 stars
37 (23%)
2 stars
15 (9%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Joe Frazier.
131 reviews5 followers
September 23, 2014
Leaders Make the Future provides the insights of Bob Johansen, Fellow and former President of Institute for the Future on how leaders can cope with changes coming over the next ten years. He indicates that the world in which leaders must operate will be increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) and that leaders need to apply vision, understanding, clarity and agility to move forward effectively.

The book is mainly attempts to persuade based on reasonability and examples rather than marshaling arguments with evidence for its points. When I evaluated the evidence for a) the main forces of change in the future and b) the best skills for leaders to develop to work well within the challenges our future presents it seems pretty weak.

While I appreciate the book's ability to provoke forethought of what leaders need to do now to prepare for leading in the future, I also see a dearth of evidence that the proposed skill sets are the best way to flourish in the future.

The future my be fraught with more VUCA and the skill sets outlined may be the best approach to flourishing in a VUCA world, the lack of evidence that this is the case limits the impetus for implementing focus and programs around the skill sets described. At this point, companies serious about preparing their leadership team for the future would be well served by seeking more data for what works or diving into what is working well for similar companies (or companies similar to where the want to be) and pursuing those. It may be that IFF or other organizations also have more data to substantiate the ideas presented here.

For the full review: wp.me/p2XCwQ-YO
Profile Image for Manoj Joshi.
81 reviews3 followers
March 29, 2020
Bob is an extraordinary thinker and futurist. His book “Leaders make the future...” is an exciting scholarly text that allows permissible boundaries for flipped thinking. This is after I read the second time on his signed book, now my treasure at the most critical times in COVID-19. I read in one go, took fours hours of deep learning on a Sunday afternoon.
Profile Image for Nathan Brant.
202 reviews
April 10, 2022
I wish this had been written after the 2016 election and 2020 pandemic. It almost feels quaint.
Profile Image for Bart Breen.
209 reviews17 followers
May 20, 2012
Excellent Book for Leadership in Changing Times

Bob Johansen is a part of the "Think Tank" known as the Institute for the Future. Their purpose includes looking at the rapidly changing environment we find ourselves in today and projecting what the future may look like. Most companies that practise this discipline for themselves will try to go maybe as much as 5 years out, which is a significant stretch in many industries which are measured by management and investors in quarterly increments. Johansen and company attempt to go 10 years with a level of specificity that exceeds what most companies would attempt to do and of course, as well, on a much broader scale.

10 New Leadership Skills is of course, a catchy title and thought, but these aren't really "new" skills so much as they are existing skills adapted to some of the unique challenges they foresee in the next 10 years.

The 10 are retitled but shoudn't be unfamiliar to those who have studied leadership.

1. Maker Instinct is innovation and invention adapted to an environment that is becoming less dominated by traditional research and development and now seeing more grass roots creativity arising in less traditional networks.

2. Clarity speaks to leadership ability to be agile and see long term goals with a high tolerance for change and adjustment along the way.

3. Dilemma Flipping speaks to the ability to live with seemingly unsolvable problems but to manage them in a way that allows for different approaches to generate new opportunities despite the inability to solve the original problem.

4. Immersive Learning Ability is the ability to enter in to a new environment and become quickly attuned to the specific needs of the new opportunities that arise in short order.

5. Bio-Empathy which is the ability to move within a growing "green sector" of out society and economy to tie into the sensistivities of this increasing market.

6. Constructive Depolarizing is a recognition that as markets and cultures become less geographically contained that there will be a greater need for leaders who can navigate the challenges that these changes create.

7. Quiet Transparency appears to me to be a reference to what in other contexts might be labelled as Servant Leadership. It's a recognition to that in volitile and changing markets, especially those involving highly trained and specialize teams that leadership leads less by hierarchy and more by consensus of those led.

8. Rapid Prototyping again applies to innovation and agility and a leaders ability to forego thoroughness and certainty for a more rapid and risky approach in the knowledge that there will be less success but greater rewards for those successes that are forged.

9. Smart Mob Organization again ties into the emerging informal social and professional networks that changing technology is creating.

10. Commons Creating takes a different tack upon sharing assets with other competitors and professional networks.

The anecdotal stories and analysis that accompanies each section hold attention and illustrate very effectively the point being made.

So "New" may be a stretch in many regards. Certainly however these create a better understanding of the new applications of these traditional leadership skills in the challenges of the next decade and this is a very worthy read for those in or aspiring to those leadership roles.

5 Stars.

Bart Breen
Profile Image for David D.  Knapp, Ph.D..
406 reviews6 followers
February 10, 2021
This was a difficult book for me to rate because I really enjoyed sections of it, while struggling through others. In the end, I think three stars are about right.

In terms of specifics...

Of the "10 New Leadership Skills" Mr. Johansen identified as critical for success in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world of the future, I really enjoyed #3 Dilemma Flipping, #5 Bio-Empathy, #6 Constructive Depolarizing, and #8 Rapid Prototyping. Chapter 5 on Bio-Empathy was particularly enlightening, because I had never encountered that word/concept before (apparently because he coined it, according to subsequent online research I conducted). But I love the word and the concept, so I'll be exploring that further in my work around leading in living systems.

I also highlighted a number of great lines in the book, including the following:

"The most healthy leaders will be the best leaders. In fact, ten years from now, it will be rare to see top leaders who are overweight or live unhealthy lifestyles. This is a big shift from the past, when many top leaders ate too much, drank too much, traveled too much, and exercised too little." [p. 19]

"In my experience, physical exercise and healthy living are vital to leadership...Leaders must develop physical and emotional energies that work for them as individuals as well as inspire those around them." [p. 21]

"Certainty and similar states of 'knowing we know' arise of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love and anger, function independently of reason...How many leaders have you seen who know they are right, even if they are wrong?" [p. 111]

"An angry leader, however, is rarely effective." [p. 214]

And yet...doing the math shows that I wasn't particularly enthralled with six of the 10 chapters on these new skills. Throw in some tedious writing in the lengthy Introduction and Chapters 11 and 12, and you can understand why I could give it only three stars.

Still, I'm glad I read this book. And I'll definitely draw on it when helping the leaders and organizations with whom I work learn to not only survive, but actually thrive in the VUCA environment.
Profile Image for Dewayne.
148 reviews7 followers
January 1, 2015
I had an opportunity to attend a workshop led by the author Bob Johansen which is where I received a copy of this book. This was actually my second time hearing him speak.  I learned from his workshop and reading this book if I was to choose my profession all over I wouldn't mind being a futurist.  Especially if you get to work for a place call IFTF (Institue for the Future).  This is a thought provoking book I recommend for any current or aspiring leader.  Bob identifies ten key leadership skills that leaders who desire to make the future will need to demonstrate in a VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex, Ambigous). He also shares a 10 year forecast map he created in 2012 which is definitely worth a purchase of the book. Here is a list of the skills identfied in the book:
1. Maker Instinct
2. Clarity
3. Dilemma Flipping
4. Immersive Learning Ability
5. Bio-Empathy
6. Constructure Depolarizing
7. Quiet Transperency
8. Rapid Prototyping
9. Smart-Mob Organizing
10. Commons Creating
Several of these skills you may already have mastered and others may need more development. The book provides a self-study to complete to help you learn how the skills applies to you.
620 reviews44 followers
August 23, 2010
Leadership skills for the future

What do you do when, metaphorically, the ground starts to shift beneath your feet, placing you and your organization in possible jeopardy? Conventional leaders often cannot deal with such unnerving dislocation. Confused and flummoxed, they cower in the corner, afraid to move. However, savvy executives who have the skills needed to deal with volatile change see such upheaval as a special opportunity to advance their companies into the future. In this visionary book, Bob Johansen, former president of the Institute for the Future, outlines the top 10 new skills leaders will need to cope with a future characterized by volatility and uncertainty. getAbstract suggests that those who purchase this book might even want to read the conclusion first. That will allow you to begin with the author’s series of pertinent questions you can use to assess your capabilities against the 10 new skills you will need in the future.
Profile Image for Steve Puma.
20 reviews4 followers
June 12, 2011
Bob Johansen, from the Insitute for the Future, writes about the 10 new leaderships skills that will be required in the next decade and beyond.

This is a must-read if you want to be on the cutting edge of emerging trends in open-source, collaboration, maker culture, dilemma flipping, smart mobs and more. This books will give you what you need to navigate the complicated world of business in the 21st century.

An excellent and thought-provoking read.
September 18, 2014
Leaders Make the Future by Bob Johansen. It's a rehash of knowledge survived since the dawn of time. Our Stone Age ancestors understood the relevance of having tools and skills to get from trouble to solution through flexible means. :-) All he has done is used new words and far too much waffling. There are "gold nuggets" so it's not a complete write-off. :-)

I read this book as a part of my Leadership Development.
100 reviews
October 29, 2014
The first quarter of the book seemed very self serving for the author and the organization he works for. Mr. Johansen breaks very little ground in his presentation of "new" leadership skills. Although the book was required to be read in advance of our firm's strategic planning retreat I believe it did little to stimulate thoughts, discussion, and creativity for the planning sessions.
3 reviews11 followers
January 4, 2013
Engaging read with lots of compelling examples. I especially valued his discussion of commons-creating, the impulse and ability to seed, nurture and grow shared assets that can benefit all players--and allow competition at a higher level. Provocative.
Profile Image for Lori.
117 reviews2 followers
February 14, 2014
Best business book I have read in a long while. I really like the conclusion which provides ideas as to how the reader can work to develop or strengthen certain skills or traits. I will return to this book often, and will recommend it to others.
Profile Image for Jessica.
193 reviews
February 5, 2017
I thought this book was a little unnecessary at times. There were a few nuggets of good advice here and there, but overall I didn't think the book was really that helpful in terms of leadership. I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
11 reviews
February 7, 2017
Poignant, engaging, and inspiring, Bob Johansen arms future leaders with the awareness and skills they need to be successful in this VUCA world. "Leaders Make the Future" is a compass for aspiring leaders in the overwhelming storm of unprecedented global change.
Profile Image for Tara Nichol.
94 reviews
March 5, 2018
This book really felt more like a scholarly article than anything else. Very dry and academic. I personally do not disagree with the concepts on leadership that the author discusses. But the tone of the book does not instill encouragement in future leaders to live out these concepts.
2,408 reviews
April 25, 2012
Futures study book on the skills that leaders will need in the future. It sounded at times like the author was trying to drum up consulting business.
Profile Image for V Massaglia.
318 reviews3 followers
August 11, 2013
I really like the optimistic tone as well as practical applications of the concepts presented in the book.

Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews

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