You will likely have noticed that my focus has rested firmly on artificial intelligence in recent weeks. It is something that I passionately believe in. It can improve the way leaders lead, drive productivity growth to a whole new level, and ultimately change the world of business for the better.
However, in all my talk of its boundless potential, I feel I should point out that AI has its limitations. Yes, it has the power to radically enhance almost every area of business, including leadership. But what it cannot do is make you a great leader in and of itself. Ineffective leaders cannot hide behind AI.
While scepticism of intelligent technologies still pervades the corporate world, the possibilities that AI presents are gradually piquing interest in leadership circles. Understandably, managers are drawn to the prospect of saving precious time, shaking off tedious tasks from their shoulders and accessing unparalleled business insight at the touch of a button. However, what many people fail to understand is that the potential of AI can only be realised by leaders who possess skill and insight to rival the capabilities of the technologies they adopt.
It is true that artificial intelligence can help strengthen creativity and innovation in leadership, but to do that, it needs some raw materials to work with. If a leader is neither creative nor innovative to begin with, then even with the best AI tools at their disposal, they are likely to remain just as uncreative and conventional as before.
Don’t get me wrong, embracing AI is, in itself, a vital first step towards boosting productivity and enhancing the workforce, but for it to truly yield results, leaders must brush up on some important skills of their own.
Let’s start by considering a key usage of AI: automation. One of the most talked about advantages of artificial intelligence in the workplace is its ability to automate many routine, repetitive tasks, freeing up managers to focus on more “human” activities as a result. In this new reality, leaders will be expected to flex their soft skill muscles and demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence.
While AI can deliver insights into workforce performance, it’s up to the manager to act upon those insights with empathy and understanding. Great leaders know what drives their employees and what demotivates them. In a world of ever-advancing technologies, AI can help all managers become great leaders.
Then there’s judgement. It goes without saying that sound judgement is a prerequisite for any strong leader, but how many of us can honestly claim to have rock-solid judgement when it comes to data? AI can generate vast pools of workforce and company information, but the insights it generates will only be as good as the data that it is fed. In the end, data is not perfect.
So, as a leader, do you have the skills to accurately assess the value of your data and the confidence to decide what to feed in and what to leave out? Managers fit for tomorrow’s world can navigate both the challenges and opportunities that data presents and turn findings into good decisions.
Now, judgement and empathy are skills that can be honed with effort and training, but there are others that are somewhat trickier to develop. Successful integration of AI technologies in the workplace relies upon the existence of creativity and innovation at the highest levels, and it is here that managers will either sink or swim.
Let’s face it, not every leader is destined to be the next Elon Musk — many don’t even possess the strategic abilities or foresight to set out a clear vision for the future of their firms. Only the fittest of leaders will survive in an ecosystem shaped by AI, but maybe that’s the way it should be.
Success in tomorrow’s world doesn’t just rely on embracing artificial intelligence, it demands leadership skills that can nurture people and turn tech-driven insights into tangible results.
Tommy Weir is the CEO of enaible: AI-powered Leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.