Leaders: Do You Fear the Future?

Seizing the day is not a recipe for business success. Leaders must confront their fears of the future and turn them into something positive.

If you don’t have some fear about the future, you’re not paying attention. But fear is not a bad thing. It’s what you do with your fear that can turn bad.

In a world of disruptive opportunity, leaders will need to learn how to practice voluntary fear exposure. They will need safe zones to practice their leadership skills and develop their capacities, knowledge, discipline, practices, perspective and worldview.

Play through your fear

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Safe zones are a place where leaders can confront their fears and play through them in a low-risk setting.

Gaming, simulation, role-playing, improvisational theater, immersive travel and similar experiences can help leaders create safe zones to practice their own leadership, and players can be safely scared in the interest of developing their own readiness and resilience.

Gaming in the sense of obstacles that we volunteer to overcome will be reimagined over the next decade to help leaders prepare for the so-called VUCA world.

By safe zones, I don’t mean places where leaders will be free from what upsets them. Rather, I mean a place where leaders can confront their fears and learn to play through them in a low-risk setting.

Leaders must learn to play through their fear and develop effective and efficient responses, turning fear into something positive.

Gameful engagement

For some senior leaders, the word game just may not sound businesslike (We are a serious company – we don’t play games).

When I encounter resistance to the word gaming, I generally go for a less controversial term like immersive experience, or scenario or simulation. Basically, gaming is immersive engagement.

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You have to push through fear in a spirit that allows you to fail early, fail often and fail cheaply.

Gaming is emotionally laden attention. Gaming is a good story, where the players get to be in the story. The language issues will be temporary. Gaming – or whatever it comes to be called – will provide a rich pedagogy for learning, as has already been demonstrated convincingly in war gaming, emergency response simulations, pilot training, and surgical training.

The whole point of gameful engagement is to immerse yourself in a realistic but mock fearful environment and learn how to thrive or at least push through it. You have to do that in a spirit that allows you to fail early, fail often and fail cheaply.

Leaders who have the literacy of voluntary fear can say:

  • I am comfortable with and adept at gaming, simulation, improvisation and role-playing.
  • I am committed to immersive learning to engage with communities where I lead.
  • I practice my leadership skills in low-risk settings.

This post is an excerpt from Bob Johansen’s new book, The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything.

This article first appeared on The Institute For The Future’s Future Now blog and was republished with permission.

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The Multiple Faces of Leadership

Leaders: Are You Future-Proof?

The Making of a Tenacious Leader

Bob Johansen is a distinguished fellow at the Institute For The Future (IFTF).

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