Mike Johnson

We are deeply sorry to announce the death of our founder and Chairman, Mike Johnson, who passed away peacefully in hospital on August 15th

Mike was a hugely charismatic and inspiring person. A journalist by trade, he wrote 12 business books, including “Winning the People Wars” and “Starting out on your Own”. He contributed to several world of work studies for the Economist and the Financial Times and consulted with many Fortune 500 firms and global institutions.

A truly engaging person, Mike was great company. His huge range of friends will remember many (often long) evenings spent putting the world, and particularly the world of work, to rights. He was well travelled and knowledgeable on global affairs. Never shy to share his opinion and provoke new thinking he would often challenge the status quo and disrupt vested interests He lived for many years in Brussels where he had a wide circle of friends. He returned to live in the UK with his wife and newborn son and settled in Lymington, where he quickly established himself in the community.

An example of Mike’s vision was the founding of the FutureWork Forum in 2003 – long before ‘the future of work’ became a fashionable term. The FWF was established to help leaders and organizations prepare for the challenges ahead and continues to flourish today. Partners of the Forum who knew Mike well will miss his stimulating contributions to meetings and his journalistic ability to express his ideas in writing. In recent years, his health had been in decline, following a stroke in 2014, which was then followed by the loss of his wife Julie and their son Cameron, both of whom he missed terribly.

Some tributes from friends and colleagues

I first met Mike Johnson at Management Center Europe (MCE) in the 90’s.  He was a gifted writer.  When I decided to author my own book, Mike was the first person I thought of who could help me make that happen.  His editing and contribution to Easy Eloquence made years of experience come together in the final edition.  Mike’s own books were outstanding.

Perhaps what I remember Mike for mostly was his ability to bring people together.  He created Future Work Forum and invited colleagues from all over the world to participate.  He was able to bring talent from many areas to speak at conferences and to write in different publications – showcasing his colleagues’ experiences and providing insights and communication on human resources  for numerous events and publications.

Mike will be missed. But his legacy remains – through FWF and the books and articles he has authored.  He was committed to being at the cutting edge of the future of work, and I know that his friends will continue to fulfill that mission.

Susan Huskisson

Mike and I met back in 1999, and shared many interests regarding Future of Work themes. We were often in touch multiple times a week bouncing ideas off each other and it was always fascinating and enriching.

Mike was incredibly supportive and invaluable as a mentor when I started contemplating leaving corporate life and setting up my own consulting and coaching practice. I was impressed with how he had built his own brand and became so successful and I learned a great deal from him.

The FutureWork Forum which was initiated by Mike grew under his leadership and many projects were lined up for colleagues to work on together. Papers and books were published. None of that would have happened without Mike devoting himself to all of us who were part of the FutureWork Forum and benefited so much from it.

I will miss Mike’s presence and his strong character, his sharp brain and wit, his outstanding writing, his leadership and being the magnet that held all of us together.

Hanneke Frese

I first met Mike through a mutual business associate and thought he had a rather detached and dismissive attitude.  I got him all wrong and understood that he was a business realist and more importantly always ready to help.  His extensive network and creative thinking was always made available, not only to me but anybody who asked for help.  When I joined the FWF I met an extraordinary range of talented people from whom I learnt a lot. That was its strength – the sum of its total was greater than its parts. It is without question his lasting legacy and I am sure the current partners will uphold its immutable principles.

Mike and I enjoyed many a lunch which sometimes included a refreshing glass of something fortifying.  He was well read and our political discussions were always lively if not always aligned.  My admiration for him increased beyond measure as he had to battle with significant health issues and the shattering emotional upset with the loss of both Julie and Cameron.

We had planned to meet for lunch at the Yacht Club last June but sadly his health was failing and he was compelled to cancel.  I am saddened that I am unable to celebrate his life at his very last FWF event but know that he is in good hands.

Very well played Mike!

Anthony McAlister

Mike came into my life in 2001 and soon he had me speaking at conferences in Istanbul, Geneva, the Aurora and others – what a great and generous person to know. He had an amazing network of people, and these were significant people, the thought leaders of their day as indeed was Mike. A prolific author who was not afraid to challenge and be controversial. He shaped the thinking behind Leadership, Talent, Engagement and gave the management world new perspectives on these topics.

Lately he spoke a lot about Jules and Cameron and how he missed both. On my visits to him over the years, I slowly watched his health deteriorate. I’m a cynical old bugger is how he once described himself to me.

Goodbye my friend. Thanks for all you have given us, and for the difference you have made – you cynical old bugger!

Rest in peace Mike

Margaret and Shay McConnon

Mike was one of the most interesting, engaging and amusing people I’ve worked with, easily the most reliable and professional author I ever signed and, beneath the occasionally bluff façade and a right pain in the butt, he was a genuinely kind and decent man who had far more than his fair share of awfulness to deal with over the last decade of his life. I will miss him.

Stephen Partridge

I have known Mike since January 1976 when I joined MCE. He was working at that time on a subject unheard of then: Social Responsibility. He convinced MCE to initiate a Social Responsibility Award.

Mike secured interviews for me with some of the most prestigious business and generalist magazines in Europe and the World. He used his natural contact talents to open doors of all kinds of organisations, at all kinds of levels, with all kinds of people.

Our lives took different paths after I left MCE until I joined the Future Work Forum that Mike had founded a few years before. We were both very interested in the «war for talent». We had never-ending discussions during which he challenged my double expertise as Corporate HR Executive and Academic Professor.

Mike was often in Geneva, where Sotiria (my wife had also worked with Mike at MCE) and I spent long dinner evenings together (they always were with Mike!).

We praised his courage and strength to survive Julie and Cameron and his determination to overcome his ailing health. Mike was and remains, a part of our lives – a friend, colleague and forward thinker.

Alain Haut

Mike Johnson helped create and was a skilled leader of the Future Work Forum (FWF).  His impact on better understanding the critical nexus of people, work, and organizations will be long lasting and was worldwide.  I join current and former members of FWF as we pay tribute to Mike’s considerable intellect, business acumen, unique writing talents, wry wit, and engaging personality. We are very fortunate to have spent time in Mike’s orbit and will miss him greatly.

Lance Wright – Washington, DC

Mike was both gifted and a giver – his huge talent and drive enabled him to build a highly successful career and he wanted others to benefit from what he’d learnt –  by direct support and mentoring for the many individuals he guided in their careers and through his books for the world at large.

Life with Mike was never dull – especially if you had a contrary point of view, but you always learnt in his company. His knowledge, his travels and curiosity made him great company – although you needed stamina.

Mike invited  me to join the FutureWork Forum in its early days. He surely was prescient in its establishment and it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to be associated over the years as it continues to grow.

Latterly, the enormous emotional and physical burdens he carried took their toll.

I’ll focus on the good times and remember the friendship and amazing legacy he has left.

Richard Savage

I got to know Mike Johnson in the early 90’s when I had joined MCE as their In company Director , at that time we got to know each other very well. However our business and personal relationship started to flourish early 2000 when I had moved to CCL.

He became our in-house writer as well as a ghostwriter for some of our articles. But most I enjoyed Mike during our various business trips together, especially our joint business visits to Zurich . It was always a pleasure to enjoy a nice dinner combined with excellent wine during our trips. Mike was a character but also a forward thinker. Especially when he established the FWF, where we enjoyed excellent intellectual meetings with the partners and a nice “apres” in Brussels or London.

I will never forget our last meeting in Zurich, where during breakfast he got a small stroke in front of me. I had to call Julie and alert her. I never had expected that this would have been our last endeavour together and that in a short term his life turned downwards, loss of Juie, Cameron. A pity he lost his fighting spirit in the end. However I will always be grateful to have met Mike on my professional and personal journey. A man with a Vision, who will be missed.

Rudi Plettinx

I first met Mike when he was working for Management Centre Europe in Brussels in the 1990s – an extremely accomplished writer he was among his many other busy consulting roles responsible for producing a lot of MCE’s editorial and marketing content – he also pioneered the introduction of daily newsletter updates during their global business conferences. A proud rugby loving Scot, Mike was well read, well-travelled and always stimulating company. Never one to toe the conventional line, Mike was always looking to debate and challenge. Perhaps honed from his early years’ experience as a tough journalist, Mike possessed a natural scepticism about many aspects of corporate and business life. It gave him some unique insights that he often reflected in his many accomplished books and writings – many of which were written in the sunshine of Cartagena, Spain and the West coast of the USA.

For all his strong intellect, opinions and Scottish grit Mike was also generous in spirit – always willing to offer advice and counsel that was grounded in real experience. This also made him a great collaborator and dinner companion. It also enabled him to cultivate a global network of stimulating colleagues, associates and friends. This culminated in him establishing the Future Work Forum – that attracts a wide variety of people from diverse business and professional backgrounds who like Mike shared, a passion in the future of work. The FWF is a fitting legacy to Mike’s life’s work.

In recent years Mike needed all his Scottish strength and character to cope with personal illness and the tragic, early loss of his dear wife Julie followed by the sudden and devastating loss of his son Cameron. For his many friends it was an incomprehensible amount of personal loss and grief that Mike bore with great strength but would eventually take its toll.

Finally, as someone who was in Mike’s wider circle of friends and associates I’d like to thank those of his very close friends who helped Mike so much in his very difficult final years. I know they provided much needed support and company to Mike at a time when it was most needed.

Mark Thomas

In the world of reticent consultants, forced by circumstances into their roles, Mike stood out as a unique professional in his field. He chose to take the jump to become self-employed in the days when professionals’ main focus was to navigate and survive in the corporate world. He figured out how to build a solid business out of business writing and publishing, evolving into an advisor to senior managers.

He blended the skills of journalism and reporting with publishing and advice to managers to build his unique and profitable cottage industry over 40 years. In our time working together we saw many consultants and smooth-taking marketing agencies come and go. Mike’s recipe was to keep it simple and practical, deliver authoritative content and become a trusted advisor to his clients by understanding their businesses – and helping them clearly frame their key issues to engage with the external world or their corporate ecosystem. Years of listening to the concerns of senior managers and understanding what leadership meant – and lacked – led him to develop a range of useful projects and partnerships based on his know-how of how management worked. Culminating with concept of the Future Work Forum.

His key advice to those younger in the profession, like me, was: ‘don’t tell anybody….’. So, what was the key to his success? I learned that working with him. But remain sworn to secrecy!

Michael Devlin

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Mike, but I remember what we talked about. It was about the future of the working world and the different perspectives with which you can look at it.

One of Mike’s very special qualities was his sense of people and how they fit together. His putting together of the Future Work Forum reflects this diversity, which was always important to him.

I unfortunately didn’t meet Mike very often in person, because London and Zurich are not very close to each other, but every encounter was an enrichment, an inspiration and an impulse to always think a bit further.

Mike will remain in my memory as a magnet who attracted good ideas and exciting people, always creating a friendly atmosphere. I will miss him, but I am convinced that his ideas will live on.

Matthias Mölleney

I was introduced to Mike nearly 20 years ago, and it was clear that this giant of a man was an extraordinary person. He shared his wisdom and global experience freely, and he had much to draw on whether as a journalist, speechwriter, or very successful author. Over fine food and a glass of Bordeaux we would set about putting the world to rights; he was inspiring and fun to be with and had a keen sense of justice, taking delight in being subversive and challenging power.

Mike was a generous and kind mentor to me, as well as a loyal friend. I will miss him enormously. He challenged me to be better and do better, and we worked well together throughout Europe. He encouraged me, made introductions, pushed me to write more, and was instrumental in helping me get my first book – Conscious Collaboration – published in 2016.

In recent years, I spent a lot of time with Mike as his health deteriorated, and as he dealt with the death of his wife and later, the devastating loss of his son, both of whom he adored. I visited him in hospital in July as he struggled to overcome a serious infection. As we gave each other a hug and said our goodbyes, I think we knew this was probably the last time we’d see each other. Thanks for the good times, the conversations and the laughter, for your determination and for your stubbornness. Rest in peace, my friend.

Ben Emmens

When I first met Mike in the London School Of Economics in the innovation centre I had designed and ran, it was literally the start of a long and glorious journey around Europe, North Africa and the US.

He brought me into his Future Work Forum and we travelled the likes of Istanbul, Geneva, Brussels, Marbella, Thessaloniki, New York, Zurich and many others, giving keynote talks, running workshops, writing articles and writing books. We even spoke on cruise ships together! Mike helped grow my professional career and my personal experience, outwards.

Alongside others in the Forum, Mike also greatly supported my own technology startup.

Perhaps more than anything though, I will remember the long lunches and dinners, contemplating the world’s issues, dreaming up new ideas in the field of leadership while enjoying great food and wine.

He and his lovely family became personal friends for whom I will forever hold strong and fun memories.

Cliff Dennett

I left corporate life in 1992 and set up a Forum at Henley Management College for people to get together and discuss the Future of Work. 18 years later as we were closing down this forum, I discovered that someone else had set up a Future Work Forum and I was curious to find out who this was. So I contacted Mike and we arranged to meet (needless to say over a nice lunch). There I found a kindred spirit, someone who could see that we were facing a dramatic change in the way people were going to work and that leaders in organisations were blindly blundering into this future.

From this he invited me to join the Future Work Forum, a fascinating mix of people, mostly Mike’s friends and contacts, who all had interesting perspectives on the world of work. He would gather them together regularly and trigger a conversation, usually by challenging the status quo and always by stimulating thinking ‘outside the box’. Although, interestingly, his working pattern had not kept up with advances in technology and he relied heavily on personal contact despite the Forum being geographically distributed.

As Mike’s health deteriorated and he faced the cruel tragedy of losing Julie and then Cameron I started to help him out in running the Forum. I was able to sort some of the administration, organising meetings and managing the membership, but replacing Mike’s influence on the Partners was never in my sights. Until very recently he remained a guiding hand on the direction of the Forum even though he never took to using Zoom as a way of meeting. He leaves a big pair of shoes to fill and I hope we can do him justice by continuing to challenge conventional thinking and answer the question “What would Mike have said?”

Peter Thomson