I laughed out loud while writing the words intelligent leadership. The people around me on the plane must have wondered what I thought was so funny.
I had intended for that word combination to be the blending of A.I and leadership, but seeing them together sparked an entirely different thought: “What exactly is an intelligent leader?”
About 18 months ago, I found myself heading to Tokyo for a weekend of tutoring on artificial intelligence. I stepped onto the flight to the Japanese capital an A.I. sceptic, but to my surprise, returned to Dubai a changed man. In the space of just a few days, I came to realise my limitations when it comes to information attainment, processing, prediction, memory and recall.
For the first time, I was confronted with the troubling fact that I forget far more than I remember of what I learn.
Unlike me, artificial intelligence doesn’t suffer from such limitations. Actually, it goes in the opposite direction: it learns more, processes faster and never forgets. Of course, this doesn’t make it perfect, but I realised in Tokyo that A.I. would determine the split between winners and losers.
Almost overnight, I had transformed from a sceptic to a cheerleader, but a question remained in my mind: “Could A.I. lead better than you or I?”
Not only is A.I. going to impact jobs, it’s going to remake what leaders do. The cost of using data will continue to reduce, making it more readily usable, and data will move from being the property of the IT department to being accessible to all. This means A.I. will become a part of everyday work, including leading.
To oversimply leadership, you could reduce it to its core skill: decision-making. Decisions about what to do, how to do it, when it should be done, who should do it, how to get them to do it, and what the return will be from doing it. The list goes on.
These decisions are shaped by a judgement based upon predictions. Whether you realise it or not, you predict what will happen in a given scenario and then reach a sensible conclusion.
As A.I. serves up better and cheaper predictions, they’ll be commoditised. Just as email commoditised written communication by removing the time lag and laborious act of handwriting, A.I. will do the same for all the predictions you make in a day.
When you make a decision, in the back of your mind, you estimate what the consequences will be — or at least you should. But the fact is, A.I. can do the intelligent part of this better than you’ll ever be able to. It has access to, and can process, more information than you can, it can accurately handle data from the multiple parties you need to consider, it can work out interactions and predict what will happen in different circumstances.
What’s more, it can do all this in a fraction of the time it takes us to tackle any one of these tasks.
Intelligent leadership driven by A.I. will replace information attainment; it will make sense of it and figure out what to do with it. In fact, it will handle leadership prediction in its entirety.
The intelligent leadership will propose what you should do, how you should go about it, and who should do it. When A.I. encroaches on leadership in this way, it will in essence become your processing platform.
This kind of A.I. prediction is useful because it helps improve decisions, but prediction isn’t the only input into decision-making. The other key input is leadership judgement, or how we determine the benefits and costs of different decisions in different situations. Leveraging A.I. as your leadership platform will enable you to concentrate on judgement.
More importantly, my prediction is that A.I. can make you an even better leader. By harnessing artificial intelligence, instead of getting bogged down in data and decision-making processes, you’ll be able to focus on your value add.
Who knows? Maybe the interaction of A.I. with leadership will result in more than one kind of intelligent leadership.
— The writer is a CEO coach and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at email@example.com