by Rob , 3 months ago

Leadership in the Artificial Intelligence Era

Leadership in the Artificial Intelligence Era

"In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes,"; and now, constant changes in technology seem to be right up there with those certainties. 

As a result, the skill set for being an effective leader has also changed, especially with the rise in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it has infiltrated the workplace. The demand for a new leadership benchmark is a natural evolution of how the world is changing. During the Industrial Revolution, for example, leaders needed to follow a certain dogmatic approach to build machines and factories and establish workplace routines. 

Today, a new era of AI has threatened to replace employees and also demands employees to work alongside advanced technological machines. Leaders need to build dynamic teams, articulate a vision, and set goals while remaining competitive. Here are the top skills needed for effective leadership in the AI age: 


Adaptability

Artificial intelligence has driven tremendous growth and opportunities for many organizations, but it has also caused extinction to companies that do not adapt. We're in the era of digital Darwinism - a time where technology and people are evolving faster than businesses can adapt. Disruption is not anything new, but the speed at which it is happening is unprecedented. Companies whose leadership fail to adapt are now ‘case studies in many business classes on the importance of adaptability’. These include: 

  • Kodak - failed to take advantage of the digital era and filed for bankruptcy in 2013. 

  • Blackberry -  ignored touchscreen-based technology, and their market share fell to 0.2%. 

  • MySpace - failed to adapt their experience and respond to competitors such as Facebook. 

To be an adaptable leader requires a purposeful intent to create a diverse workforce. Employing people of different demographics, ages, and nationalities will ensure that leaders are open to different perspectives and changes. An adaptable leader also has learning and development as key drivers for themselves and the workplace. It ensures that they have the best skills and opens opportunities that were not seen before. 

Emotional Intelligence

The integration of AI in the workplace naturally creates an environment of stress, uncertainty, and incompetency for many people. Employees, especially those with long tenure, often feel threatened that a 'machine will take over their jobs.' Therefore, emotional intelligence (EQ) is an absolute priority for leaders, not only in managing employees but also in how it affects their business and marketing efforts. 

Customers need a diverse mix of AI interactions (e.g., chatbots) but also human interaction. There is a need for a balance to create systems free of bias and fairness in how they arrive at strategic and tactical decisions. The data utilized by AI systems needs to be appropriated to balance the EQ needed to facilitate business processes. 

Google’s Project Aristotle states that teams need three elements to perform: 

  1. Social sensitivity

  2. An equal environment

  3. Psychological safety. 

To effectively harness these three areas in a volatile environment, it takes an emotionally intelligent leader. 

 

Communication

How we connect or communicate with others has, in recent times, changed so much. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, human interaction is no longer what it used to be. Organizations have been thrusted into a new way of work instead of planning for it carefully. The CEO of  Twitter, for example, has stated that employees can work from home forever. A new way of communication has, thus, quickly become normal. Video call meetings, an increase in emails, Slack groups, Microsoft Teams, virtual collaboration, social media, and text messaging has surged. Leaders that are able to navigate this new matrix of communication effectively will ultimately see their organizations be more successful and profitable. As indicated in a study conducted by David Grossman, companies with highly effective communicators as leaders show a 47% higher return to investors over five years.

Therefore, leaders need to be more deliberate to listen actively to employees and show a sense of empathy and understanding as everyone adapts to a new style of work. Furthermore, communication needs to be expressed with clarity so that the desired outcome of a project is not loss throughout all the emails, messages, and meetings held. Finally, leaders need to provide on-the-job feedback and move away from annual performance reviews to give input into an employee's performance. 


Collaboration 

AI has radically altered the way we do work, and instead of replacing humans, it complements and augments the way we do work. To this end, leaders ought to encourage more collaborative engagements. A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that in most cases, 20% to 35% of valued added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees". It's a staggeringly low number considering the value it adds to an organization. The same study found that 'psychological safety' is the biggest barrier to collaboration. Consider Amazon's Alexa, or even Apple's Siri. Both products required multiple inputs from behavioral economists, engineers, marketers, and designers. Without an environment that encouraged ideas to be discussed openly, these technological advancements would never have been possible. 

Therefore, leaders need to palace a greater emphasis on creative freedom and refrain from creating 'guidelines,' which can often stifle ideas. They also need to demand greater collaboration between departments and avoid a siloed approach to work. Finally, leaders also need to develop goals that stretch employees to work beyond their comfort zone. 

AI will continue to make businesses more profitable and agile but will only be effective if leaders are harnessed correctly. If done correctly, it could give organizations a long-lasting competitive advantage, so every leader should brush up on their leadership skills and keep up with the changes.


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