An Interview with Jacob Morgan

Our world is almost unrecognizable as science fiction seems to blur with reality. What has become painfully clear is that the leadership skills of yesterday won’t solve or even manage the problems of tomorrow. To find the skills and mindsets that future leaders will need to successfully navigate a never-normal VUCA world, Jacob Morgan interviewed the top CEO’s around the world (140 +) for his latest best-selling book, The Future Leader. Jacob visited Geeks Geezers Googlization Show to talk about the 9 Notable Leadership Skills of the Future Leader.

Burnout hits the C-Suite too

A recent study from Deloitte found that 82 percent of current leaders are experiencing symptoms of burnout within the workplace, and nearly 96 percent of those leaders report a decline in their mental health. Even more troubling is the 41% of those executives who do not feel comfortable or find it difficult to speak about their mental health. Jacob Morgan reveals how leaders see their role changing and why the mental health of leaders is on the decline.

How do you balance leadership and transparency?

Throughout his journey of writing The Future Leader, Morgan reached out to over 140 executives to explore their perception of leadership. In the end, Morgan crafted his own definition: “leadership is the ability to influence change within the company and the employees, to both conceive of a better vision of the world and inspire employees to follow that vision.” 

With the pandemic still hanging over our heads, the company’s purpose and vision for many organizations have shifted from focusing on profits to a more human-centric approach. Morgan sees an exponential increase in conversations about employee well-being, psychological safety and mental health during meetings, and believes we’ve only seen the first chapter in this new leadership approach.

But while transparency and authenticity are cited often as pillars of desirable leadership attributes, walking the talk doesn’t come without blowback, especially for senior executives. 

In a recent display of transparency and honesty, the vice president of developer relations Amr Awadallah with Google Cloud revealed his childhood was dominated by anti-Semitic perspectives in a LinkedIn article. He wrote about realizations and growth and reminded everyone the importance of practicing love, respect, and acceptance. A backlash erupted and soon Awadallah was fired from Google, Morgan believes will discourage other leaders from further transparency.

Morgan recommends approaching transparency from three “pillars,” which he developed alongside Ravi Saligram, the CEO of Newell Brands. 

  1. The first is speaking about transparency from the company’s perspective by both acknowledging the need for authenticity and transparency while at the same time promoting a safe space that doesn’t criticize human mistakes. 
  2. The second is approaching transparency from a leader’s perspective and asking employees to consider human error before criticizing for transparency. 
  3. The third perspective comes from the employees, where Morgan reiterates that employees must recognize both their boss and each other as humans who make mistakes.

The Mindsets and Skills of a Leader

Throughout his book, Morgan describes the four mindsets and five skills every leader should possess. The four mindsets are: 1) the global citizen, 2) the servant, 3) the chef, and 4) the explorer. 

  • To possess a global citizen mindset, a leader must surround him- or herself with people unlike them and think towards the bigger picture of the company as a whole. 
  • The servant, on the other hand, possesses humility and understanding and recognizes that leaders serve four groups—the leader’s leaders (if there are any), the company’s customers, the leader’s employees, and oneself. 
  • For a chef mindset, leaders must develop a balance between humanity and technology. 
  • Finally, the explorer asks leaders to be curious and have a growth mindset, requiring quick thinking and innovative approaches to new problems.

There are also five skills that Morgan believes every leader should have, which are the skill to:

  1. Know how to make people more successful than you;
  2. Know how to be both a great listener and communicator;
  3. Practice emotional intelligence, especially empathy and self-awareness;
  4. Think in terms of scenarios and possibilities; and
  5. Embrace technological changes without becoming obsessed with them.

Unfortunately, some leaders are stuck in the scientific influenced industrial age thinking of leadership. It worked for nearly 100 years, so why not continue it?  When confronted by this resistance to change, Morgan suggests that change doesn’t have to be black-and-white or take place overnight. The best approach in many situations is to make change work gradually.

The 1 Percent Challenge

Morgan admits, the four mindsets and five skills can be overwhelming for one leader to learn, so Morgan advises a stepped approach to this learning process. He calls it the “1% Challenge,” which asks leaders (and employees) to make oneself better by 1% every day. This may be as simple as eating a salad for lunch instead of a Big Mac and fries to practice self-care or recognizing an employee for work performed or a valuable contribution they made to the team recently. 

With small changes come big shifts, and Morgan believes the concept of leadership will continue to evolve from a focus on dollars and cents to one that strives to create a working environment people want to be in. As he writes in The Future Leader, “Purpose and meaning should not be a privilege at work. It should be a right for any employee at any level.”


“[We need to move] past fears of AI taking over our jobs; understanding how important people are now. Bring the focus back on humans and our connections and relationship.” (10:53)

“On the one hand we want you to open and authentic and transparent, but on the other hand if you say something wrong or if we take something out of context, people are going to come for you with pitchforks.” (12:53)

 “It’s not so much change that we fear; it’s the process.” (23:31)

“Focus on small gradual changes every day. 1% better each day for 37x improvement in a year” (24:21)

“Leaders must stay positive because how they feel rubs off onto others.” (31:13)

 “We [humans] need certainty, we need that predictability. We need to know that we’re going to get to Disney World, but we don’t want to do all the planning.” (36:14)

 “The Great Resignation will turn into the Great Opportunity for the smart companies that are out there.” (40:38)


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