The New Leadership Literacies

Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything

Robert Johansen (Author)

Publication date: 08/15/2017

The New Leadership Literacies
Over the next decade, today's connected world will be explosively more connected. Anything that can be distributed will be distributed: workforces, organizations, supply webs, and more. The tired practices of centralized organizations will become brittle in a future where authority is radically decentralized. Rigid hierarchies will give way to liquid structures. Most leaders—and most organizations—aren't ready for this future. Are you?

It's too late to catch up, but it's a great time to leapfrog. Noted futurist Bob Johansen goes beyond skills and competencies to propose five new leadership literacies—combinations of disciplines, practices, and worldviews—that will be needed to thrive in a VUCA world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. This book shows how to (1) forecast likely futures so you can “look back” and make sure you're prepared now for the changes to come, (2) use low-risk gaming spaces to work through your concerns about the future and hone your leadership skills, (3) lead shape-shifting organizations where you can't just tell people what to do, (4) be a dynamic presence even when you're not there in person, and (5) keep your personal energy high and transmit that energy throughout your organization.

This visionary book provides a vivid description of the ideal talent profile for future leaders. It is written for current, rising star, and aspiring leaders; talent scouts searching for leaders; and executive coaches seeking a fresh view of how leaders will need to prepare. To get ready for this future, we will all need new leadership literacies.

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Over the next decade, today's connected world will be explosively more connected. Anything that can be distributed will be distributed: workforces, organizations, supply webs, and more. The tired practices of centralized organizations will become brittle in a future where authority is radically decentralized. Rigid hierarchies will give way to liquid structures. Most leaders—and most organizations—aren't ready for this future. Are you?

It's too late to catch up, but it's a great time to leapfrog. Noted futurist Bob Johansen goes beyond skills and competencies to propose five new leadership literacies—combinations of disciplines, practices, and worldviews—that will be needed to thrive in a VUCA world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. This book shows how to (1) forecast likely futures so you can “look back” and make sure you're prepared now for the changes to come, (2) use low-risk gaming spaces to work through your concerns about the future and hone your leadership skills, (3) lead shape-shifting organizations where you can't just tell people what to do, (4) be a dynamic presence even when you're not there in person, and (5) keep your personal energy high and transmit that energy throughout your organization.

This visionary book provides a vivid description of the ideal talent profile for future leaders. It is written for current, rising star, and aspiring leaders; talent scouts searching for leaders; and executive coaches seeking a fresh view of how leaders will need to prepare. To get ready for this future, we will all need new leadership literacies.

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Meet the Author

Visit Author Page - Robert Johansen

Bob Johansen has been helping organizations around the world prepare for and shape the future for more than thirty years. The New Leadership Literacies is Bob's eleventh book. He is a frequent keynote speaker for large groups and leads a wide range of workshops with rising-star leaders.

As a distinguished fellow at IFTF, Bob draws on his training in the social sciences and his extensive experience at the edges of multiple disciplines as he interacts with top leaders of business, government, and nonprofit organizations to encourage thoughtful consideration of the long-term future. His most recent book, the second edition of Leaders Make the Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain Age, has contributions from the Center for Creative Leadership. Connect Consulting Group named this book on change management and leadership as the best business book of 2012. Bob has done workshops based on his books at a wide range of corporations, including P&G, Kellogg's, Disney, Intel, Walmart, Syngenta, Johnson & Johnson, UPS, McKinsey, General Mills, and McDonald's. Major universities, nonprofits, and churches also use his books.

Born in Geneva, Illinois, Bob holds a BS from the University of Illinois, where he attended on a basketball scholarship and channeled his unrealistic desire to be a professional athlete. He received a PhD from Northwestern University, where he was introduced to the Internet (then called the ARPANet) as it was just coming to life. In addition, Bob has a divinity school degree from Crozer Theological Seminary, where he began his lifelong interest in world religions, ethics, and things spiritual. Bob was the president of the Institute for the Future for eight years and founded its program of research on emerging technology horizons.

Bob is married to Robin B. Johansen, an attorney practicing constitutional law. They have two children and three grandchildren.

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The New Leadership Literacies


The New Literacy of Looking Backward from the Future


Images  I can see long-term patterns of change ten years ahead, beyond the noise of the present.

Images  I bring a futures perspective to every conversation.

Images  I believe that a futures perspective makes better decisions in the present more likely.

Images  I develop my clarity but moderate my certainty.

I grew up as a basketball player in Geneva—a very small town west of Chicago—in the basketball-crazy state of Illinois. I was a rebounder and was taught to “always look long” coming off the boards. “If the long pass is there, take it!” my coaches would say over and over in the spirit of the fast break. Since I was young, I’ve been taught to look long. When I finished my humble college basketball career at the University of Illinois, I started looking long beyond the basketball court, and it turned out I was better at it off the court than on.

I have been immersed in the future since 1968, when I was a student at the same divinity school that Martin Luther King Jr. attended, Crozer Theological Seminary—then in Chester, Pennsylvania. Ever since then, I have focused my life ten years ahead.

At Crozer, I was a research assistant for a conference on religion and the future organized by Professor Kenneth Cauthen, one of the first theologians to create open dialogues between religion and science. At that conference, I got to carry the bags (literally) for the world’s leading futurists. I have a vivid memory of running out under the helicopter blades to get the suitcase of Herman Kahn, the founder of the Hudson Institute and the father of modern scenario planning. I was particularly moved by the title of his most famous books: Thinking about the Unthinkable. Looking backward from the future will help leaders think about the unthinkable and, increasingly, it will be important to do just that.

I remember going into Professor Cauthen’s office and seeing a newsletter from the World Future Society announcing the formation of Institute for the Future in 1968. I remember thinking, that’s where I want to work. Five years later, that’s where I was working—and I still am working there.

In between Crozer and Institute for the Future, I had another futures immersion experience at Northwestern University in an interdisciplinary PhD program. When I arrived, I imagined myself becoming a sociology of religion professor, with a focus on religion and the future. My program required that I take all the basic courses of any sociology PhD student. My interests, however, stretched into the psychology, religion, and computer science departments; and at Northwestern, interdisciplinary work was encouraged.

While I was at Northwestern in the early 1970s, the predecessor to the internet, the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), was just coming to life. I became completely enthralled by the implications of network connectivity for people, organizations, and the world. While my home sociology department at Northwestern still used computer punch cards, I was able to walk over to the computer center and interact directly—though crudely by today’s standards—with one of the world’s largest computers.

Jamais Cascio, my colleague at IFTF, likens futures research to getting a vaccination. You understand that there are dangers out there and you want to vaccinate yourself against them. To extend the analogy, looking long is like fitness training in addition to getting a vaccination. You should not only get the best vaccinations available, but you should also exercise to prepare your mind and your body for the future.

A ten-year futures perspective is built into our way of life at the institute. Looking long is using foresight to provoke insight and action.

Jeremy Kirshbaum, another IFTF colleague, likens futures research to earthquake forecasting. Earthquakes are inevitable but also unpredictable. We have lots of historical data behind them, but they are still unpredictable in their nature. However, we can identify zones where you shouldn’t build your house out of brick. More importantly with earthquakes, there are readiness disciplines and resilience practices that we can use to prepare.

Figure 5 summarizes the new literacy of looking backward from the future. I first published the Foresight to Insight to Action Cycle in a BerrettKoehler book called Get There Early (Johansen 2007), but it has evolved considerably since then.

In the first version of the cycle, I had arrows that went clockwise only. Over years of practicing, I’ve realized that this process can go either direction. Also, I decided that arrows were too symmetrical for the realities of foresight to insight to action. After you’ve had an insight, that insight might cause you to revise your forecast. After you’ve moved ahead with an action, your experience might cause you to revise your insight or your foresight. Making the future is filled with twists and turns.

Foresight, inevitably, links in some way to hindsight. Think of hindsight as our banks of prior knowledge. Hindsight includes experience, which can be both a source of insight and a burden. Hindsight can be a cognitive anchoring in the past, and it can be a stimulus for innovation. Hindsight can keep us from seeing futures we cannot imagine.

It is revealing to notice that the word history has the word story embedded in it. Futures research is, in a real sense, storytelling about the history of the future—the present that hasn’t happened yet. It was novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, an eloquent futures storyteller herself, who said, “Story is our only boat for sailing on the river of time” (Le Guin 1994).


FIGURE 5 Nobody can predict the future.

Master storyteller Kendall Haven, one of the key players on a recent project to explore the neuroscience of storytelling, taught me that we all have our own personal neural story net that shapes our hindsight and our view of the world (Haven 2014). As we experience new things, we always run them up against our personal neural story net to see what fits and what does not. More open-minded people have flexible neural story nets that allow them to see alternative futures, while others are trapped in their old stories—no matter what new experiences they may have. Thinking systematically about the future helps us to loosen up, keep an open mind, and question our own assumptions.

But this is tough work. Leaders at innovative companies often try out new technologies too early, and their experiments fail. Years later, those same leaders are likely to remember their earlier failures when someone comes to them to propose use of a new technology. “We tried that years ago and it didn’t work,” they say—and they are correct. Yes, they tried it too early, but that doesn’t mean that same innovation—or some variation—won’t work later, when the timing is right.

Traditionally innovative companies often miss the biggest potential impacts of a new technology or innovation once it finally occurs. Innovation often involves timing. A failed technology in one period can become a giant success later on. Those early innovators often watch in frustration as later (often less innovative) companies get the benefit of a delayed innovation. Hindsight—even accurate hindsight—can limit foresight. It is dangerous to assume that what didn’t work before doesn’t work now. Often, what didn’t work before does work now. Leaders need to keep their minds open.

Foresight is a plausible, internally consistent, provocative story from the future, with signals to bring it to life. Notice that story is recurring. Futurists tell stories of possibility about the future, as if they had some special access to it. Some foresight is quantitative, but even quantitative forecasts should be wrapped in good stories in order to reach wide audiences.

Foresight should provoke people, but with a tone of humility. One of the things I don’t like about some futurists is that they seem to relish in making other people feel stupid. I believe that the best futurists provoke insights for others in a way that is both provocative and humble. The best futurists, like great leaders, both inspire and empower. The best foresight provokes insight for others. In my talks and workshops, I try to frighten people at the start but empower them by the end.

Having a sense of humor about the future is also important. Some futurists take themselves so seriously. The future is unpredictable, so it is imperative that we stay humble. Humility leads to a sense of humor, since future forecasts will often be wrong—or even right for the wrong reasons or right but in the wrong time frame. Often, the future happens in unexpected ways even if the overall direction of change is forecast accurately. Both humility and humor are important aspects of leadership, and a futures perspective presents opportunities for both. Studying the future can be fun.

When we do a custom forecast at Institute for the Future, we provide the independent outside-in foresight. We look at least ten years ahead at external future forces likely to disrupt a particular organization or topic. For example, we’ve done custom forecasts recently on external future forces likely to disrupt food security and another forecast focused on poverty. Our job is foresight, but insight is the responsibility of those who use our forecasts. We are not experts in their industries; we are not even experts in the present. We provide an outside-in perspective, but it is their job to listen for the future and allow themselves to be provoked.

Insight is an aha moment that creates a new pattern of connections in your brain. Creating insight is a lot harder than generating ideas. Ideas bubble out, but insight is rare. Ideas are wonderful, but they are easy compared to insight. Insight is often hard uncomfortable work. Consider Verlyn Flieger’s insight about Tolkien, one of the world’s great storytellers:

Turn, let us not forget, is the word Tolkien uses for the moment of change in fairy-stories, the moment of becoming. It is reversal, metanoia, felt before the mind can grasp it, before the apprehension of the happy ending and the consolation. (Flieger 1933)

The goal of futures thinking is to use foresight to induce the kind of head-jerking turn that happens as you read a great story or play a great game: an abrupt shift in your thinking. Once you have had an insight, you can’t go back to your old way of thinking. Insight changes you. Ultimately, foresight is about sense making in a future world where sense is in short supply.

The way to evaluate a futurist is to ask if the foresight provoked an insight that led to a better decision in the present. The way to evaluate a fortune teller is to ask whether or not the foresight actually happened. Futurists should not and cannot predict the future. Instead, futurists should provoke insight.

Right after 9/11, I was asked by Walt Disney World to do a forecast of the future of fun in theme parks, with a focus on Walt Disney World in Orlando.* Parents, especially right after 9/11, were very concerned about the safety of taking their kids into large crowds. The kids, however, just wanted to have fun.

Our foresight was that the fun would become increasingly important for everyone because of all the uncertainty in the world around us. The VUCA world, our forecast suggested, will make the shared experience of fun and fear even more important. Everyone wants to have immersive fun experiences, but parents will be very concerned about safety.

The insight that came out of this custom forecast was that a theme park had to be a place where kids could be safely scared. Walt Disney World offers an experience that is extremely safe but still scary in a way that kids love. Certainly, Walt Disney World—particularly EPCOT—is able to turn this insight into action. We never know exactly how our foresight inspires insight and action—there are always many variables—but the link between foresight, insight, and action seems clear in this case.

IFTF did a custom forecast for Procter & Gamble in the early days of biotech. Our forecast was that biotech would disrupt P&G, especially the detergent and hair care businesses. I presented this custom forecast to the CEO and his global leadership council. Their insight at that meeting was that none of the top people had enough biotech background to make good business decisions about this emerging future that we forecast (and which has now happened).

The action that came out of that combination of foresight and insight was something they called the biotech reverse mentoring program: we paired the top twelve people at P&G with young P&G biotech scientists. Each pair met about once a month for a year. The leaders from the executive floor went out to the labs—often for the first time. The young scientists went to the executive floor—often for the first time. The scientists were never the same afterward—and neither were the executives. The scientists had a new appreciation of the decisions that the executives faced—and this was a particularly difficult period for P&G. The executives understood the basic science at a deep-enough level to understand the forecast regarding the impact of biotech on their businesses. A. G. Lafley, one of those executives, went on to become one of the most successful CEOs in P&G history, and his mentor became one of P&G’s leaders in sustainability. The biotech perspective that began with this mentoring program was spread through a community of practice and is now embedded in P&G’s strategy. Foresight had provoked insight that led to action—with very good business results.

The purpose of ten-year futures thinking is to come up with a way forward, expressed with clarity and ideally as a story. The best way to lead in a disruptive world is to be very clear where you’re going, tell a great story about it, and then be very flexible about how you bring that future to life. In the military, this way of thinking and acting is called commander’s intent or mission command, but I like the term clarity a lot better for business or other non-military organizations.

Collective moments of insight—when people come to the same realization together at the same time—are often the most powerful. Foresight is a wonderful way to provoke insight even if you don’t agree with the forecast. You can argue with any forecast, but it is best to resist the temptation. Some of the best forecasts will be those you don’t like. The most useful approach is to assume that foresight is plausible, internally consistent, and provocative. What are your insights, given these external future forces? Repeat the process with an alternative forecast if you are not satisfied with the first.

The reason you look long is to develop the perspective necessary to come up with a good plan of action, a way forward, expressed with clarity and ideally as a story. The big lesson is to be very clear where you’re going, but very flexible how you get there. Action should animate you. That’s the basic discipline of looking backward from the future—but still acting now.

Trends consultancies and the business press tend to start from today’s world and work a few years out. Some of these consultancies focus on fashion or fads, which are short-term shifts in preferences or behavior. In contrast, I’m suggesting that leaders leap ahead and focus ten or more years ahead, then work backward to identify opportunities today—given the external future forces of the next decade. Anyone can do this, not just professional futurists. In most fields, there is so much noise in the present that it is very hard to get a clear view of what’s going on or where things are going.

At IFTF, we call this process Forecaster’s Haiku. A haiku is an artfully concise Japanese poem of three lines and seventeen syllables (five, seven, five). It involves considerable art to create headline summaries for each forecast that are provocative without turning people off. The headlines also need to be familiar enough to be understood without sounding like the same old thing. While our foresight is focused ten years out, the insights and actions that result will be designed to inform current decision making.

For some forecasts, we literally use haiku as a discipline for pulling out the essence of a forecast. For example, we did a 30-year forecast on the future of food security recently. One of the big themes was what we called the programmable world, where digital innovation comes to the world of food science. Here is the haiku we created:

Unlock potential

When physical is programmed

Like digital world

Figure 6 is a summary of the shift toward looking backward from the future.


FIGURE 6 The new literacy of looking backward from the future, to act now with clarity—but not certainty

Looking backward from the future will require many skills. In Leaders Make the Future, I identified ten future leadership skills that I believe will be required for leaders to thrive in the future. Two of these skills—clarity and dilemma flipping—will be particularly important for looking backward from the future.

Looking backward from the future will help you find your clarity.

On the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2015, I saw the movie Selma, and I read the book by Tavis Smiley about the last year of Dr. King’s life. Smiley studied the Civil Rights Movement and concluded that during that year, Dr. King was rejected by most of the people who were close to him (Ritz & Smiley 2010). Thinking of all the wonderful things Dr. King did, it made me sad to think those closest to him decided that he was going off track. They thought he was getting interested in too many different causes—the march against poverty, opposition to the Vietnam War, and environmental issues. He lost his clarity, they said. Rather, Dr. King had a different clarity that some of his closest colleagues had missed.

Dr. King pushed back and reminded his followers that achieving civil rights was part of his higher calling—his long view included a deep commitment to social justice. Racism, poverty, and militarism were all social justice issues.

Here is a corporate example of clarity and the need for a long view: A. G. Lafley, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, was a master in clarity. He was very good at using foresight to provoke his own insight and action, stating his clarity, and being flexible in how he executed that clarity.

When he first came in as CEO Lafley revived an old P&G motto: “The consumer is boss.” He repeated this phrase many times per day, always with great enthusiasm. Clarity of expression requires the enthusiasm of a Broadway actor performing the same play again and again but always with inspired emotion. Many leaders tire of telling the same story again and again, but repetition is very important to spreading the message of clarity.

At that time P&G was facing big challenges, and their internal R&D was under-delivering. Lafley said that half of the new ideas should come from the outside. He told people that he would measure them, that he would publicly announce when P&G achieved a goal, and that whoever did it would publish an article in the Harvard Business Review about how it was done. He delivered a clear, radical statement of direction and then allowed a lot of flexibility about how to do it. The very successful program that came to be called “Connect and Develop” was the result, but that came out only as people raced ahead in pursuit of the clarity that Lafley both embodied and expressed constantly—always with contagious enthusiasm (Huston & Sakab 2006).

Clarity has always been important for leaders, but it’s never been so difficult as it will be over the next decade. Being clear in an extremely disruptive world will be much harder than it was in simpler times.

Looking backward from the future will increase your ability to do the kind of dilemma flipping that will become increasingly necessary in the VUCA world.

The next decade will be loaded with dilemmas, and leaders will need to figure out how to flip them into opportunities.

To do dilemma flipping, you have got to like the space between judging too soon and deciding too late. If you’re not sure if it’s a problem or a dilemma when you’re facing a challenge, it is better to assume it’s a dilemma. If it turns out it’s a problem you can solve, that’s great. But if you think it’s a problem and it turns out to be a dilemma, you’re in trouble, because you have set expectations as if you’re going to solve it, but you won’t be able to.

Chris Folayan started a company to sell items from international retailers to Africans across the continent.* The idea sounds so simple, but it was really innovative. Folayan looked long to see that Africans had more spending power and wanted more global consumer goods. The dilemma here was that global companies feared the risk of entering a historically unpredictable marketplace that was unfamiliar with ecommerce. MallforAfrica has found out how to turn that to its advantage and has been very successful. It is now expanding the relationship with retailers to sell African items in the United States. Whether or not Folayan has long-term commercial success, MallforAfrica is a signal of a new kind of retailing on a global scale.

Looking long makes it clear that global digital infrastructure will be wildly varied for the foreseeable future. The sources of innovation won’t be just Silicon Valley and other high-tech zones. Rather, innovation will come from Africa and other regions of the world that are dealing with constraints that force that innovation. For example, the power bank phone is common in West Africa. It handles up to three SIM cards, is 3G enabled, and has an enormous battery pack that can last for weeks when the power grid is faulty, which is a frequent occurrence there. This basic-level phone is available for around twenty USD and appears under several brand names. It is unclear who originally created it, but whoever did so was looking long and stimulated by a challenging dilemma that got flipped creatively.

A final dilemma example is health care in the United States, which is not a problem that can be solved. The health care system can be improved, but it can’t be solved, so problem-solving language is inappropriate. When facing a complex challenge like health care, it is very important to be really careful about language. If the challenge you are facing is a dilemma, or even if you think it might be, you should call it a dilemma and use dilemma language. The VUCA world will be loaded with dilemmas, which leaders will have to deal with. There will still be many problems that can be solved, but they will be solved mostly by people who work for leaders, in some sense of the term “work for.” Leaders will deal mostly with dilemmas.

* I did this custom forecast with Dr. Mark Schar, now at Stanford University.


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“Bob Johansen is the Rick Steves of travel to the future. He stimulates leapfrog thinking and provides a compass for scenario planning. The Salvation Army has been inspired by Bob's perspectives to help us find new ways to deliver our message of hope.” 
—Bill Burke, Chair, National Advisory Board, The Salvation Army

“Cigna has emphasized Bob Johansen's ten leadership skills from Leaders Make the Future as part of leadership development to date, and now The New Leadership Literacies will be a cornerstone of preparing and engaging Cigna's leaders for disruption and dynamism.”
—Karen Kocher, Chief Learning Officer, Cigna

“Electronic Arts' insider game cheats for leveling up leaders for the future: (1) sidestep the beast called ‘Today,' and go through the door marked ‘Future'; (2) shake hands with wizard Bob Johansen, who will grant you new leadership literacies; (3) share these protective literacies with members of your leadership clan; and (4) move together to slay the disruptive boss dragon that goes by the name VUCA.”
—Andy Billings, Vice President, Profitable Creativity, and founder of LEAP (Learning, Engagement, and Performance), Electronic Arts

“Bob Johansen's work is a must-read for leaders preparing for a future of extreme disruption and evolving organizational models. Even more, The New Leadership Literacies will immediately become a core component of the leadership curriculum at United Rentals.”
—Craig A. Pintoff, Chief Administrative and Legal Officer, United Rentals, Inc. 

“ITSMF is the largest development network for African American IT leaders. Diverse leadership will invite experimentation, organizational innovation, and growth. Bob Johansen gives us what we need to develop and nurture the next generation of diverse leaders.” 
—Robert D. Scott, Vice President and Dean, Global Institute for Leadership Development, Information Technology Senior Management Forum, and Director of Diversity Initiatives, University of Michigan College of Engineering

“Bob Johansen's masterpiece is chock-full of wisdom, lovely stories, and uncommon common sense about how to survive and thrive the massive changes that will unfold during the next decade. His rare ability to think about the future in different and remarkably useful ways is evident in every chapter.” 
—Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor and co-author of the bestselling Scaling Up Excellence 

“Bob Johansen continues to provide a different perspective and greater awareness of the disruptions that are shaping organizations and placing new demands on our leaders. Always thought provoking, Bob makes us stop and consider whether we are doing enough to develop leaders to stay in tune with the ways business and the world around us are changing. He offers us an insightful reference point to evaluate the practices and approaches we use to develop leaders who will thrive in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.”
—Laura Mattimore, Vice President, Global Talent, Procter & Gamble

“With The New Leadership Literacies, Bob continues to offer new ways of equipping leaders to think about and shape a daunting future with commonplace disruptions. More than being competent in traditional military skills, Army War College graduates must be fluent in the leadership literacies that Bob has discerned for a globally connected and distributed security environment.”
—Charles D. Allen, Professor of Leadership, United States Army War College

“Nurses are pivotal in care delivery and amid this rapidly changing health-care landscape, nurses are experiencing the full force of the VUCA world. To ensure patient safety, nurses must lead from wherever they are—be it the bedside or the boardroom. Thanks, Bob, for once again providing insights and critical perspectives for me to incorporate in my practice and to share across the profession!”
—Launette Woolforde, Vice President, Nursing Education and Professional Development, Northwell Health

“Like other literacies, The New Leadership Literacies can be taught, and the earlier, the better. Once again, Bob Johansen is our master teacher, opening doors to the new world of uncertainty and distributed expertise. He also reveals how its leaders will be adept at going inward and leading from a keener understanding of themselves and their relationships.”
—Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, George Lucas Educational Foundation

“In just the first few pages, my pulse quickened. For leaders of the future everywhere, this is a vitally important book to prepare us all for a world where all can thrive.”
—Chris Ernst, Global Head, Leadership and Organization Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and coauthor of Boundary Spanning Leadership

“Bob Johansen is out in front of us again. This book describes a future that is VUCA on steroids—a future for which leaders are ill equipped to lead. Look back from the future; it will reward clarity and punish certainty, voluntarily engage fear, and distribute authority in shape-shifting organizations. These leadership literacies describe a developmental trajectory for a leader that is far beyond the capacity of the ‘operating systems' most of us are running. In this book, Bob gives fair warning and great developmental guidance for those of us who aspire to lead into the future.”
—Bob Anderson, CEO, and Bill Adams, Chairman and chief Development Officer of The Leadership Circle and authors of Mastering Leadership

“This book will be an important point of reference for what we all need to take into account as we try to find our place in the perpetually changing new world, and it will be especially relevant to those who will try to lead us in that world.”
—Edgar H. Schein, Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of Humble Inquiry and Humble Consulting

“My job is to oversee the procurement of baseball talent for the San Francisco Giants. I have white hair, but that does not mean I am old school. Bob Johansen's book provides clear literacies that will be necessary to discover and nurture the next championship talent to be our team leaders.”
—John Barr, Vice President and Assistant General Manager, San Francisco Giants

“To understand the gift that is Bob Johansen and The New Leadership Literacies, imagine twenty top CEOs in a workshop sharing their volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous angst. Foresight yields to insight, which portends action. Hope is renewed. It is powerful and humbling. Years after Bob spoke to our roundtable, his concepts are still discussed at every meeting.”
—Brenda C. Curiel, Managing Director, CCI, Inc.

“Once again, Bob Johansen introduces leaders to the future—this time by refocusing us on new leadership literacies that inspire innovation at the thinly structured edges of our organizations. I will be using this book in my work, and I urge others striving to produce social good to do so as well.”
—H. Art Taylor, President and CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance

“During the time I led leadership development at McDonald's Corporation, Bob's Leaders Make the Future was a mandatory read for our high potential leaders. Now, as executive director of FRED Leadership, I plan to use Bob and The New Leadership Literacies to further the thinking on this critical topic with top leadership/executive development programs.”
—David Small, Executive Director, FRED Leadership

“Working with Bob for many years has been shockingly uncomfortable at times. His new book once again pushes me out of my comfort zone—but it helps me imagine what it will take to thrive in a future of extreme disruption.”
—Carmen M. Allison, Vice President, Talent, Pottery Barn Brands and Global Talent Development, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

“In a time of fear and difference, Bob Johansen offers a framework for values-based leadership. This book offers thoughtful and practical literacies for leading rather than reacting. Our graduate students as well as our program partners in faith communities, social innovation, and values-based companies will learn ways to turn fear and uncertainty into vision and opportunity.”
—David Vásquez-Levy, President, Pacific School of Religion

“Leaders Make the Future instantly woke me up and became the foundation on which I now lead human resources. Now, The New Leadership Literacies is the perfect deep dive into preparing to thrive in this increasingly uncertain world.”
—Kathy Mandato, Vice President, Human Resources, Snap, Inc.

“I am claw-hammered by Bob Johansen's ability to see around the next bend with clarity, wit, candor, and style. Bob is a master in making sense of what leaders will need to survive disruptive blasts from the future. We are aggressively using Bob's new literacies for immersive executive development. Bob was the 2015 recipient of the Boston University EDRT Program Marion Gislason Award for Excellence in Leadership Development.”
—Jack McCarthy, Director, Executive Development Roundtable, and Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Questrom School of Business, Boston University

“The New Leadership Literacies is another powerful book from Bob Johansen! I will personally use it in my work at CCL to guide decisions about research we will undertake and how our solutions will develop leaders who are “future literate.” I can see this book becoming a dog-eared tool for both CCL staff and our clients alike. Bob was the 2016 recipient of the H. Smith Richardson Jr. Visiting Fellow award from CCL.”
—Jennifer W. Martineau, Senior Vice President, Research, Evaluation, and Societal Advancement, Center for Creative Leadership

“Bob Johansen has learned from the VUCA world of the present and created powerful new leadership literacies for the future, which will compel individuals to act with a sense of urgency and conviction. Bob's leadership literacies are a natural and welcomed complement to our programs, in which we immerse executives in the leadership lessons from West Point and the US Army.”
—Karen Kuhla, Executive Director, Thayer Leader Development Group

“Everything is changing at once. Bob offers a way forward. He has been a reliable thinking partner as we have reimagined the business for an autonomous world. In my role with the Foresight Council, I will be using the ideas in this book to guide corporate foresight leaders as they help shape the future.”
—Rick Holman, Director, Foresight Council, and past leader, GM Global Foresight Network

“Bob Johansen invites each generation to live on the edge of their competencies to read the future backward and grasp hold of the signs that beckon us forward. He invites us to transcend what we don't know with honesty. In so doing, he knows we will create curious leaders and curious communities who will resist the urge to freak out and instead leapfrog into our new awaiting future. Though we all face a dilemma-ridden world, Johansen offers The New Leadership Literacies to collaboratively hack the outskirts of a hope that awaits us.”
—C. Andrew Doyle, IX Episcopal Bishop, Diocese of Texas

“Bob's work has been critical to developing our leaders to think in new ways and support an innovative culture. We are using The New Leadership Literacies to help develop visionary leadership.”
—Leah Toney Podratz, Director, Organization Development, Cox Enterprises 

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