10 leadership skills for an uncertain future
As Warren Bennis says, leaders are not born; leaders are made. Today at Infinite Spur, we bring you the ten essential qualities of the leader of the future. Find out if you have what it takes.
One of the lessons many learned from the COVID pandemic is that the future is uncertain. What we thought we knew and the plans we could have made probably changed forever, or at least have been delayed or modified. The future ahead of us is still unclear, and it seems that "the new normal" is nothing more than the same uncertainty of these past years. This unsettling reality calls for new leadership skills that can help us focus and adapt to times of uncertainty. We may not be able to change the world around us, but we can change our attitude and how we deal with the situations around us. That is why now, more than ever, we need to be flexible and adaptable and seek clarity to guide through these turbulences.
An essential part of leadership lies in how we deal with adversity, what tools we have to work through it, and who we rely on to overcome it. That is why, in difficult times, it is vital to look into the future with clarity, focus on where we want to go, and decide who our travel companions will be.
When looking into the future in times of uncertainty, we should look for references that can help us turn an adverse situation into an opportunity for change. This is the case of Bob Johansen, former Director of the California Institute for the Future, an institution founded in 1968 to help organizations plan for the future. Johansen, an expert in the analysis of uncertain futures and the author of multiple books on leadership, including Leaders make the future, describes the ten essential skills of a good leader.
In today's post, we examine each one of these skills. You will be able to explore the skills you feel more comfortable with and those you have to work on. We hope that, when you finish reading, you have the opportunity to discover the leader you have in you.
The first skill is the Maker Instinct. In complex situations, leadership calls for action. Being a spectator is no use; you must be part of the solution. These situations require a creative ability that spontaneously arises from within and leads you to make things, create new ideas and innovate concepts or solutions. It is essential to make with whatever tools we have, not with those we wish we had, or we want. Remember that any current solution may evolve and can be modified to adapt to a future necessity.
The second skill to see the future is Clarity. It may seem complicated to see the future given the uncertainty of the situation. Still, as Johansen points out, it is vital to see through messes and contradictions and envision a future that others cannot yet see. Seeing beyond the difficulties of the present and taking a glimpse of a better future with possibilities will allow us to head towards it with firmness and certainty.
The third skill is the ability to turn problems around, or "Dilemma Flipping," as described by Johansen. It is easy to see the difficulties; the important thing is to turn situations around and turn them into advantages and opportunities. Don't look for what you don't have; examine the situation and look for what you can get from it and how to get it. Search, and you will find an opportunity.
The fourth skill is Immersive Learning Ability, which is the ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments and learn from them in the first person. Immersive learning ability allows us to explore reality from different angles. But how do we do it? The future is built on desire, imagining desirable situations, talking to people, or using digital games and virtual reality settings. As pilots that prepare for flying in flight simulators, in the same way, we should explore that desirable future to understand the terrain better and be able to anticipate potential problems.
The fifth skill is bio empathy. It is the ability to see things from nature´s point of view, to understand, empathize and learn from its patterns. We must learn to see things from a sustainable and respectful perspective and incorporate it into our routines and decision-making processes for the future.
The sixth skill is Constructive Depolarizing, which involves a high level of empathy and respect. It is the ability to calm tense situations, bring opposing perspectives of different groups, and reconcile interests and objectives to achieve a common good. They can be ideas, values , or cultures. The important thing is knowing how to negotiate divergent positions to continue advancing together towards that desirable and better future.
The seventh skill is Quiet Transparency. It is the ability to be open, authentic, and humble. Although it may seem one of the easiest to understand, it is also one of the most difficult to find in society. Transparency and simplicity will allow others to understand and accept that we act selflessly for the common good. If, on the other hand, we are perceived to act guided by personal or any different kind of ambition, we will lose the ability to contribute and turn leadership into influence. And that is a different story.
The eighth skill is Rapid Prototyping, which is the ability to create quick early versions of innovations with the understanding that later success requires early failures. This skill is very much related to the first skill of the Maker Instinct. We not only have to think or innovate but also do. Building solutions quickly, even if they could be better, allow us to move forward. "Perfection" is limiting, it is paralyzing since it prevents errors. In times of uncertainty, agility and speed are key to change, allowing us to do things and move forward. At the same time, we can always learn from our mistakes.
The ninth skill is Smart Mob Organizer, which is the ability to create, engage with and nurture purposeful social change through electronic media and in-person communication. It is very much in line with current digital technologies and their use to communicate, share and unite for a joint project. Today social networks (as well as all kinds of networks) have become the most effective, fastest, and sustainable communication channel in history. Communication through the different networks allows us to reach any place at any time and offer infinite channels to share creations, ideas, and solutions. Be aware that in the use of social networks, as in leadership, there is a fine line that divides communication from manipulation. Watch out. Crossing the line will mean breaking the boundaries between leadership and manipulation.
The tenth and final skill is Creative Commons, which is the ability to seed, nurture and grow shared assets that can benefit all prayers. It invites us to think about the team, about the collective, and distances us from individuality. It is compelling because it values the creativity and work capacity of the group. The sum of talents can lead us to systemic and sustainable solutions. It is leadership at the service of the society of the future.
And so, where are you? Leaders are made, not born, as Bennis said. Leadership is an exercise in balance and reflection, especially in troubled times. Be aware that the critical thing may not be having all the skills but knowing your strengths and weaknesses and working equally on both.