How Leaders Can Thrive in a ‘Distributed Everything’ World

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During the next 10 years, humanity will experience an explosive connectivity and asymmetric upheaval.

Very little will remain constant in the new world – technology, employment hierarchy, monetary systems. That includes leaders and organizations

In the future of amplified digital connectivity, the speed, frequency, and scope of change will be dramatically different.

Anything that can be distributed will be distributed.

“How will this affect you?”

Ten years from now:

Ten years from now, you could be a leader in a distributed organization. It will have no center, it will grow from the edges, and it won’t be controllable.

Hierarchies will come and go in shape-shifting forms resembling a swirl. Rock-star leaders will be rare.

In our increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, simple will be great, but simplistic will be dangerous.

“How do you thrive?”

Grow into a team of networked leadership:

 Inner Strength and Grounding

People who do not possess an inner sense of strength will be more shocked by external disruptions. Most companies now offer mindfulness training and that is great for some people, but there are no magic means to be grounded in the face of the VUCA World. Leaders must find an approach that works for them, including exercise, sleep, and mental focus.


Bio-empathy involves learning the principles of nature and applying them to yourself to develop your body, mind, and leadership style. Nature works in cycles, not straight lines. Nature is loaded with dilemmas, not just problems leaders can solve.

Quiet Transparency

The ability to be open and transparent about what matters to you, without advertising yourself. Clarity of direction will be rewarded in this future, but certainty will be punished.

The disruptions of the next decade will be beyond what most leaders are equipped to handle. They will be susceptible to simplistic solutions.

  1. Provide enough clarity to organizations to make disruption tolerable, even motivational.
  2. Be explicit about where they’re going, but flexible about how to get there.
  3. Avoid judging too soon (the classic mistake of knee-jerk problem solvers), but realize that deciding too late can be even more dangerous.

How might leaders prepare for the next 10 years?

Bob Johansen

Dr. Bob Johansen is a distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley. For more than 30 years, Bob has helped organizations around the world prepare for and shape the future, including corporations such as P&G, Walmart, McKinsey, United Rentals, and Syngenta, as well as major universities and nonprofits.

The author or co-author of 10 books, Bob is a frequent keynote speaker. This post draws from his best-selling Leaders Make the Future and his new book The New Leadership Literacies.

Bob earned a B.S. from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, as well as a Master’s degree focused on world religions.