Not long ago, the idea of using artificial intelligence (AI) to help guide business decision seemed like science fiction. However, this technology is slowly being integrated into companies around the globe. Recently, Infosys published a study called Leadership in the Age of AI, which looked at the role AI is playing at more than 1,000 different businesses.
The study surveyed business leaders and IT executives responsible for purchasing or implementing AI solutions in seven countries. According to the results, about three out of four respondents believed that AI was already transforming business processes at their companies. Nearly all of the C-level executives interviewed said that they believed AI was driving measurable benefits.
Importantly, the data also showed that many organizations are already taking steps to prepare business leaders for this new workplace frontier. About 80 percent of C-level executives said that their executive teams will need to adapt their roles as more AI technologies become integrated into business processes. About half of respondents in these roles put leadership training among their top three priorities moving forward.
Changes to Leadership as AI Technologies Become More Prevalent
Many people may interpret the adoption of AI technologies as the elimination of human roles. However, it is important to keep in mind that AI is meant to augment human intelligence, not completely replace it. From a leader’s perspective, there are many processes that AI could not successfully take over, although there are some parts of leadership that may be more effectively handled by computers.
Business leadership involves a great deal of raw cognitive processing. Even the best leaders may begin to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of facts and information to which they are exposed. But to a computer, more information ultimately means better decisions.
If AI development successfully reduces the need to spend time on many of the more cognitive aspects of leadership, then leaders will have more time to dedicate to the “softer” side of their roles, meaning connecting to people and helping them develop their talents and abilities. Leaders help guide everyone toward shared goals while ensuring that people live up to their full potential and feel fulfilled by that process. The ability to spend more time on these aspects of leadership – and less time on information processing – may ultimately improve productivity.
Research has shown that someone’s IQ is not as effective a predictor of leadership success as key personality traits such as emotional stability, curiosity, and extraversion. These traits will likely only become more important for leaders in an AI-focused age, which will likely be characterized by rapid change and ambiguity.
Leaders will need to motivate employees through these murky waters with decisiveness, expertise, and authority. This aspect of leadership will be what separates good leaders from truly great ones as AI increasingly takes over the more analytical tasks associated with the role.
A New Model for Effective Leadership in the Age of AI
As business leaders take on fewer data-driven responsibilities and begin to focus on human motivation, a number of new qualities will begin to define effectiveness. For example, humility will likely emerge as an even more important trait than it currently is. Great modern leaders embrace humility, but leaders living in an age of rapid change will need to know exactly what they do not know.
In the age of AI, leaders will need to be more open than ever before to learning from people within and outside of their organizations. Part of this equation means trusting other people to know more about certain businesses processes than leaders know themselves. Key contributions can come from anywhere in the organization, not just top executives.
Vision will also become more important than ever before. Historically, vision has always been critical, but AI will likely bring about constant business model and technological disruption. The result will be less clarity among employees about how to respond and where to take the organization. People will look to leaders for answers and those with clear vision will provide the most compelling, motivating answers.
Long-term vision provides a defined path through times of uncertainty. Leaders with vision keep their team members engaged through these periods by keeping them on track toward long-term goals. This engagement becomes particularly critical as the company faces turbulent times.
Along with humility and vision, business leaders in the AI age will need to develop adaptability. Because threats and opportunities will appear suddenly, leaders need to know how to respond decisively without wasting time. Hesitation can mean missing out on a key opportunity or letting a rival get a competitive advantage. Adaptability means keeping an open mind and being willing to abandon past opinions even when it is difficulty.
Effective communication will also be key to the development of adaptability, as leaders will need to articulate new positions in a way that fosters loyalty. Today, changing opinions can come across as weakness or lack of vision, but this view will likely shift as the market evolves. Adaptable leaders chart new courses when they need to do so, and this sort of action will become increasingly important as a survival mechanism.