artificial intelligence cfo leadership

How Artificial Intelligence is Changing the Way Leaders Perform

September 11th, 2018

ai and leadership

The mark of a good leader is their ability to adapt to the changing demands of their role. In today’s technology-driven world, one of the biggest factors to impact almost every aspect of life is the growth of Artificial Intelligence. In the last few years, AI has transformed from a fledgeling concept that seemed to exist only in sci-fi movies to a game changer that organisations cannot afford to ignore. In the age of AI, basic organisational structures, processes and business environments are going to witness a complete upheaval. But is your top leadership equipped to harness this and capitalise on it? AI might make certain facets of leadership redundant while increasing the relevance of other responsibilities and traits.

Here are the top areas leaders of today need to focus on to future-proof their roles.

Charting a clear long-term vision

Visionary leaders have always been important to the success of an organisation. But in today’s uncertain world where structures are constantly in a state of flux, vision will become even more valued. Without clarity in their vision, it can be very easy for an organisation to lose sight of long-term goals in the face of multiple new developments and distractions. AI will almost certainly reshape multiple facets of organisations, fundamentally changing many operations and introducing new technologies. When previously-followed processes are thrown into disarray, individuals in an organisation might be unsure of how to react. In this environment, a visionary leader with a clear direction can bring about stability. Leaders of organisations should shift the focus from having a myopic view of their job functions and instead, take on a more visionary, growth-oriented role. This can also keep a company focused on their long-term goals without getting distracted by immediate concerns.

With the entry of AI, the kind of vision that a company formulates is just as important as ensuring that it is followed. Future-oriented companies are able to predict developments that will have the greatest impact and shape their long-term goals to match them.

Stay updated on developments

 With technology changing almost every day, leaders need to be fully attuned to the new landscape if they want to stay ahead. The omniscient persona that many strive to create will only be less valued and ineffective with time. Effective leadership will now mean being humble enough to recognise areas where they don’t have complete knowledge of and taking steps to learn new concepts.

In fact, willingness to learn might become the most important differentiator in an AI-powered future. Leaders have to be open to widening their knowledge through a number of resources. Traditional organisational hierarchies are unlikely to survive and leaders should be willing to learn even if it is from someone several levels their junior. A futuristic company will encourage a co-operational environment that fosters learning and growth. Only by constantly upgrading their knowledge and skill sets can a leader continue to be effective even as AI becomes more prevalent.

Openness to change

 Change has never been more certain nor as quick as it is today. The only way to become successful in this dynamic environment is to be adaptable. Adaptability here has to be intrinsic, both at a personal and an organizational level. On an individual level, adaptability will be a crucial trait that sets an effective leader apart. AI is certain to disrupt current processes, permanently changing the way work is carried out. Instead of viewing this change with suspicion and apprehension, leaders have to be open to it. They should be willing to reconstruct their goals and strategies to adapt to the changing environment. In companies of tomorrow, leaders who are flexible and willing to change their course in favour of a more effective alternative will ultimately come out on top. Obstinately sticking to their convictions, a trait often valued today, will become outdated and might even harm a company in the long run.

Companies need to be willing to break the norm and restructure themselves. They might even have to shift their core business offerings to adapt to the changing market. A traditional brick-and-mortar business, for example, might have to eliminate their physical presence completely and shift to an e-commerce platform if they want to cut costs and expand their reach.

Development of interpersonal skills

 Ever since the concept of AI originated, there were concerns about the technology eventually replacing humans in many job roles. While leadership positions might not be impacted immediately, it will almost certainly affect the top rung in the long run. In the future when AI becomes more pervasive, technical skills and domain expertise might take a backseat in determining effective leadership. However, one area where AI will not be able to replace human leadership is in the realm of interpersonal skills. Softer aspects of leadership such as the ability to inspire and motivate, curiosity and empathy have always been crucial in determining the success of a leader. Now, these skills will become even more important as AI takes over many of the more routine aspects of management

Proactive identification of trends

 Today as the world becomes more connected and new technologies are introduced, no company can exist in a vacuum. Leaders need to strike a balance between focusing inward on their company’s process and looking outwards to the latest trends and developments taking place. Organisations who neglect this will not be able to keep up with the times and might find themselves becoming outdated in the new landscape. Actively engaging with the external environment is crucial for leaders to stay updated. They also need to equip their team with the skills to adapt to the changing demands.

With the dawn of Artificial Intelligence, technology might be able to replace many of the technical aspects of leadership. However, as ‘hard’ aspects of leadership become eclipsed, ‘soft’ skills will come to the fore. Leaders who can grow and adapt to this shift will be the most effective in the future.

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