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10 Business Leadership Skillsets Needed for Our Uncertain Future

Scott Cooney | Wednesday November 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Leaders Make the FutureGreen America‘s Green Business Conference is going on today and tomorrow in beautiful San Francisco, CA, in advance of the weekend’s Green Festival.  The conference opened with a talk by Bob Johansen, author of Leaders Make the Future, and futurist with the Palo Alto based Institute for the Future.

According to Johansen, businesses today are operating in a society that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.  It’s a VUCA world, in short.  The Institute studies the business community and its leaders, and finds that what we want in the business community is 1) clarity for where we’re going, and 2) flexibility on how we get there.  The Institute has characterized 10 leadership skillsets for living and thriving in this VUCA world and achieving these aims.  These will help business leaders clarifying goals on where their business is heading, and how they can get there.

The leadership skills go from the most common and simplest to achieve, to the most complex and actualized of intangible assets:

  1. The maker instinct:  that intuition we have to ‘build something.’
  2. Clarity:  ability to see past the noise and have a vision of what the future may look like.
  3. Constructive depolarizing:  ability to calm a tense situation, reestablish broken lines of communication, and branch divergent interests together.
  4. Immersive learning:  ability to reach into the unfamiliar, a world that you are not comfortable with, and learn from those situations and the people who are not like you.
  5. Bio-empathy:  ability to see things from nature’s point of view.  There is a powerful certainty that emerges from thinking like nature to solve problems and dilemmas.
  6. Dilemma flipping:  ability to turn dilemmas into opportunities or advantages.  Dilemmas can not be solved in black and white terms, (i.e., they’re not ‘problems’–there is no right answer) but they can be reconstructed.
  7. Quiet transparency:  ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you–without blatantly advertising and hitting people over the head with it.
  8. Rapid prototyping:  ability to create prototypes quickly and creatively for new technologies, ideas, and innovations.
  9. Smart mob organizing:  ability to organize through intelligent use of media.  To bring together people and businesses with purposeful intention.
  10. Commons creating:  ability to create for the common good.  This is the ultimate leadership skill.  Creating a commonly used resource, engaging everyone, nurturing shared assets, flipping a dilemma into an opportunity…Johansen believes “superstructuring the cloud will be the biggest innovation opportunity in history.”

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and is reporting live from the Green Business Conference in beautiful San Francisco, CA.


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  • http://www.buildyoursoulpurpose.com Brandon R Allen

    The names for these 10 are certainly creative but I totally agree with the message. I think these 10 traits are critical for leadership.

  • http://www.ricksmith.me RickSmithAuthor

    In my mind, it still comes down to inspiring a better future. structure is collapsing, so free forming groups take charge. The requirement is for the leader to inspire in a new direction, now more than ever…

    Rick Smith
    The Leap