History tells us that leadership, in some form or another, has always existed. There have always been those that others can turn to for guidance and effective decision-making in the face of challenges. From civic leaders navigating through periods of economic uncertainty among ever-moving global events to chief executives seeking to steer their organisation to success in the face of growing competition and shifting consumer interest, prosperity of any kind will be hard to achieve without strong leadership.
The value of effective public leadership has been thrown into sharp relief in an era that will be forever remembered for three things: climate change, COVID and crisis. But, the barriers to success that organisations face have also reminded us of the need for effective and ethical business leadership. Massive technological change has drastically altered — and will continue to alter — the way we work. The proliferation of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), offers us a glimpse into a more efficient and streamlined future.
Fallout of poor management
And yet, for many, leading in the face of AI and other disruptive technologies has proven overwhelming. A recent survey, commissioned by the Chartered Management Institute and carried out by YouGov, in the UK highlighted the extent of the problem, finding that poor management has led almost 1 in 3 employees to quit. A UK-based survey, but the findings reflect a global dilemma: how do we foster great leadership in the age of AI?
The more appropriate question, however, is: how do we leverage the capabilities of AI to foster great leadership? It’s this question that I addressed in my speech at iVentiv’s Learning Futures Dubai, Executive Knowledge Exchange on October 31. A fitting setting for such a conversation, Dubai — and the UAE broadly — has pioneered the adoption of AI in the Gulf and, in doing so, has established itself as a hub for innovation, technological advancement and entrepreneurship.
How AI will change the Gulf
Recent news of the launch of a new Arabic AI software is just the latest addition to an ever-growing list of milestone moments witnessed in the UAE’s effort to lead the Gulf in AI take-up. Courtesy of an unwavering regional commitment from GCC states broadly, the benefits the Gulf is set to reap are significant, to say the least. According to PwC, these countries will see $23.5 billion worth of economic benefits by 2030 from generative AI. A colossal figure that illustrates the compounded impact of AI on a macro level, this news also offers us food for thought about the role that disruptive technologies can play at an organisational level.
So why have some firms been slower to make full use of AI than others? Talk about the dangers of AI — on businesses, as well as its people — have been considerable. To many, the introduction of new technologies into business operations signifies the beginning of the end. This, however, as we know, is not necessarily true.
AI will change workforces — not replace them. Unfortunately, fears about the impact of new technologies are unlikely to subside any time soon. And this makes leadership in the age of AI all the more important. Leaders not only have a responsibility to make use of new technologies at their disposal but also to support their workforces in the adoption of such newfound resources.
But this will require new insight and understanding. Organisations must ensure that those in leadership positions — at all levels, not just the C-suite — are equipped with relevant knowledge and the necessary skills for a technology-driven world. Educators have a responsibility to the businesses they partner with to offer teachings that will prepare participants with an academic toolkit tailored for the challenges they face. Future-facing institutions, such as Imperial College Business School, find themselves at a crucial juncture: it is institutions such as these that are uniquely placed to support organisations looking to make sense of and succeed in a technology-driven and AI-intensive world.
— Russell Miller is Director of Learning Solutions and innovation at Imperial College Business School Executive Education