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Can ChatGPT improve your leadership?

Can ChatGPT improve your leadership?
Published: May 10, 2023
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Thoughts from Ailie Shackleton, Impact's head of content marketing.

Is it just me… or is ChatGPT the topic of chat everywhere you go?

Whilst walking our dogs this week, my estate agent friend excitedly told me she was using it to write the descriptions of houses she had coming to market, a future podcast interviewee talked animatedly of the inner dilemma she’d had about using a learning and development budget towards it, and a colleague warned me I might think twice about publishing this blog because everyone on their LinkedIn feed is saying ‘stop talking about ChatGPT’! As for me, in my role of heading up our content creation at Impact, I’m worried this easily accessible AI tool might put me out of a job (erm if my boss is reading this, please note I did think about the content of this article myself!) 

How will ChatGPT affect the L&D industry?

Then my brain exploded… this wasn’t just about my job, where would ChatGPT and AI stop? How will ChatGPT affect the L&D industry? If senior leaders are already thinking about using their L&D budget on it, will people need the personal interaction that we know makes leadership development so powerful? Could AI change everything about learning and development as we know it? It's definitely one of the hottest topics in the industry, we estimated over 75% of exhibitors at London's Learning Technologies exhibition were talking about AI.

Listening to a BBC interview with Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak brought some perspective. He argued AI can’t replace people because it lacks emotion. It reminded me that when the internet launched people thought it would replace life as we know it. And you could argue it did… but the world moved with it. So who better to ask about the future of leadership development than ChatGPT itself? 

Question: ChatGPT, what can you teach us about leadership development? 

Answer: As an AI language model, ChatGPT can provide insights and knowledge about leadership development that have been derived from a vast range of sources and perspectives. Here are some ways in which ChatGPT can teach us about leadership development: 

  • Best practices: ChatGPT can provide information on the latest best practices and trends in leadership development, based on research and insights from experts in the field. 
  • Case studies: ChatGPT can share case studies and success stories … 
  • Leadership theories: ChatGPT can explain various leadership theories … 
  • Soft skills development: ChatGPT can offer insights into the importance of developing soft skills such as … 
  • Training and development methods: ChatGPT can share information … 

So, dear reader. In the interest of saving you time, I’ve chopped most of what ChatGPT had to say. Because it was factual, but repetitive. It gave no practical application tips or crucially (for me at least) any strand of human-to-human interaction which transforms learning to an entirely different level. I swiftly moved on… 

Question: ChatGPT, what CAN’T you teach us about leadership development? 

Answer: As an AI language model, ChatGPT has some limitations to what it can do when it comes to leadership development: 

  • Cannot provide personalised coaching. 
  • Cannot replace human interaction. 
  • Cannot understand context and nuance. 
  • Cannot provide hands-on experience. 

Again, I’ve saved you the detail. In ChatGPT’s words it ‘cannot replace the value of personalised coaching, human interaction, context and nuance, and hands-on experience that are often essential components of effective leadership development programmes.’ 

Why experiential learning works

I am undoubtedly biased, but I’d say those things aren’t ‘often essential’, not having them isn't an inconvenient limitation - these factors are always needed if you are going to make learning impactful, memorable, and transferable.

These are the things we use in every experiential learning intervention. 18 years ago, as part of my induction with Impact, I took part in one of our leadership development programmes. I still remember the moment my facilitator took me to one side and gently challenged my actions. It was personalised coaching, during a hands-on experience, delivered in a way that was specific to me, not the group as a whole. And all these years later, the feedback I received still stops me in my tracks when I feel myself defaulting to those behaviours - regardless of the context or nuance.

Now I know that – just like that facilitator had honed their craft, so that when they picked their moment to invest in me it made a lasting impression and changed my behaviour in a positive way – I could take the time to invest in ChatGPT. The more feedback it gets, the better it will become at delivering a more personalised answer to me. 

But in this moment AI is not able to emulate the type of learning that made such a lasting impression on me.

And all credit to ChatGPT – it knows it!