Updated: Dec 29, 2019
More and more, artificial intelligence is permeating nearly every aspect of business and industry. It’s already begun changing the future of leadership.
Change requires updated skills, and a change as sweeping as the proliferation of AI will almost certainly require that leaders develop new skills. But much of what we’ll need will come from refining and adapting skills that are already part of good leadership practice. Here are some of the most important traits that will serve us well in the years to come:
Focusing on our adaptability. Leaders who embrace change with an agile spirit thrive in every situation. Agile leaders know how to switch gears and view issues from different perspectives, and they provide an environment in which failure is part of success and decisions are made on the basis of informed judgment. In every situation, but especially in times of change, agile leaders work to strengthen their organization’s leadership capability by providing leadership opportunities to team members with diverse backgrounds and abilities.
Absorbing our fears. If you’re fearful of widespread change, you are not al
one. Even the best leaders feel fear, but they learn to absorb that fear and work through it. Mastering any new skill requires some degree of fear-conquering. As AI becomes more familiar it will also become less frightening, so devote some time to studying the work of those who are involved in the field.
Keeping an open mind. We have to understand something before we can lead through it. And the particular challenges of robotics and artificial intelligence—with deep philosophical and ethical components—mean that we’ll have to work especially hard, and with an especially open mind, to develop that understanding.
Having comfort in uncertainty. The world is complex, business is complicated and uncertainty is guaranteed. That’s always been the case—any time we feel a sense of certainty, it’s basically false. And when it comes to AI, we need to educate ourselves and remember that wisdom doesn’t emerge from knowing with certainty but from awareness of uncertainty.
Embracing humility. A rapidly changing future requires an ancient skill: that of humility. It was Socrates who discussed the benefits of humility, understanding that our ignorance can prevent us from recognizing its own existence. An arrogant faith in our own knowledge is worth very little compared to the humility that keeps us in touch with all we don’t know—the first requirement for being open to new learning.
Embodying our humanity. A notable study at the University of Oxford projects that 47 percent of people will be at risk of losing their jobs due to advancements in computerized automation. There’s no way of knowing what that level of unemployment—much of it in white-collar professions—will do to our society. But wherever we find ourselves, we will benefit from staying connected to the core of our humanity as we navigate the changes.
AI may be able to do things we can’t, and do other things more quickly and efficiently, but it will be humans who determine the shape of the future.
Lead from within: We still have a long way to go to ensure that humans define AI’s future and to determine our best role as leaders as that future develops.