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Leading in the AI Age

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Opportunity and risk

In a changing world, the rules of work are constantly being rewritten. And many experts are identifying generative artificial intelligence (gen AI) as the biggest disruptor for businesses in 2024. 

Gen AI offers huge opportunities, with the potential to unlock an estimated $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion in additional annual value across industries [1]. But it also presents risk and uncertainty, with 53% of people reporting that AI-generated misinformation and disinformation is one of the top risks likely to present a global crisis in 2024 [2].

Whilst some organisations have banned gen AI tools, others are finding them highly productive for generating ideas, synthesising data, creating content and many other tasks. Economists now forecast that generative AI and other technologies have the potential to automate work activities that absorb 60–70% of employees’ time [3]. There are different perspectives on what this could mean, but in a human-centred organisation making ethical decisions, it could look like employees being liberated from monotonous tasks and freed up to do more interesting work, learn new skills, and prioritise their wellbeing.

The human-centred AI workplace

So what will the AI age mean for leaders? Increasingly, successful organisations will be those who use gen AI to enhance human interactions, making space for core human talents and meaningful, human-centred cultures to emerge.

Integrating gen AI and other innovative technologies into our organisations will require increased focus on human qualities. These are the qualities that leaders will need in order to make ethical decisions about how gen AI can empower and enable people, rather than sidelining or replacing them. Core values and strong human relationships will come to the fore – the very building blocks of great organisational cultures – as well as a good dose of transparency and honesty. 

Four abilities for future leadership

 Here are four abilities that we believe will be key for leaders in the AI age: 

1. Integrity – With changes to work and job roles, ongoing shifts in skill requirements, and high potential for misinformation, people need leaders they can trust. Researchers found that integrity was the number one, most widely perceived critical competency for the AI workplace, with over 75% of respondents in agreement that it will become more important as AI is integrated into organisations [4]. Leaders with integrity have high levels of trust, never compromise on their values, are transparent and honest, and always show up as their authentic selves. 

2. Communication – The quality of any human-centred organisation can be indicated by the quality of its human interactions: Are colleagues empathetic and respectful? Do they feel psychologically safe enough to challenge ideas and provide feedback?  Can they listen without judgment or bias? Research already indicates that oral communication skills will become more important in an AI-integrated workplace [5]. Leaders will need strong communication and interpersonal skills, enabling them to connect with a diverse range of people, engage in meaningful dialogue to problem solve and innovate, and forge strong relationships. 

3. Vision – Successful leaders will adopt a long-term mindset, deploying strategic thinking and creativity to inspire others towards a positive vision for the future. This will be critical for maintaining engagement and resilience levels amidst disruption and change. Part of inspiring others towards this vision should be helping them to understand exactly how AI will fit into it – how it will contribute to the success of long-term goals, and how it aligns with the organisation's purpose.   

4. Adaptability – The pace that AI technology is evolving and impacting on the workplace is rapid, and successful leaders will be those who can respond to constant change with flexibility and agility. Leaders should also model an adaptable and continuous approach to learning. Harvard Digital Reskilling Lab estimates that in the age of AI, the half-life of many skills will range from just 2.5–5 years [6]. The days of experts are over, and people will need to employ resilience and a learning mindset in order to adapt to ongoing reskilling and upskilling.

As jobs change and the nature of work transforms in the AI age, human-centred organisations will become more important than ever before. And the requirements of our strongest future leaders will reflect this. 

Download our white paper on human-centred organisations to learn more about how you can prepare your organisation for the future.

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References

[1] Mckinsey, The economic potential of generative AI: The next productivity frontier, June 2023.

[2] World Economic Forum, 'These are the biggest global risks we face in 2024 and beyond', January 2024.

[3] Mckinsey, The economic potential of generative AI: The next productivity frontier, June 2023. 

[4] Cardon et al., 'Competencies needed by business professionals in the AI Age: Character and communication lead the way', Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, November 2023 

[5] Cardon et al., 'Competencies needed by business professionals in the AI Age: Character and communication lead the way', Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, November 2023 

[6] Cardon et al., 'Competencies needed by business professionals in the AI Age: Character and communication lead the way', Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, November 2023