Although AI technology has been around for years, recent developments such as large language models, self-driving cars and the Metaverse have seen it become more integrated and impactful on our daily lives than ever before. AI is transitioning from a niche technology to a fundamental enabler of innovation and progress across a multitude of industries and facets of society – and nowhere is this more apparent than in the workplace. In fact, recent research shows that 65% of CEOs believe AI is a ‘force for good’ within the business landscape, while 96% believe the new tech will transform how operational decisions are made in the future.
Although AI is set to revolutionise almost every aspect of our working lives, in this article, we’ll be exploring three of the most intriguing ways it will impact the landscape of business leadership, along with practical examples to illustrate its transformative potential.
Smarter decision making
Although intuition, experience and decision-making will always be an important aspect of any CEO’s role, AI algorithms can now be used to make more informed choices. After all, human judgement can be inherently flawed, mainly due to cognitive biases as well as an inability to process large amounts of complex information. By studying historic data sets and identifying patterns and trends, accurate forecasts can be made about future events, leading to smarter business decisions. We can already see this kind of technology at work across various platforms, for example, Business Intelligence software collects and processes large amounts of unstructured data from internal and external systems and prepares data for analysis. Now, let’s combine this with the newest advancements in generative AI, and we’re likely to see a world in which data is not only processed, but also presented alongside detailed, contextual insights to articulate and specify impacts on different segments of the business.
A practical example: A retail company wants to launch a new product line. Using historic data sets and patterns identified by AI, they can predict consumer preferences and market trends more accurately. This allows for informed forecasts about how the new product line might perform, and even what price points might maximise profitability. Generative AI can then provide detailed insights into potential impacts on various segments of the business. It might simulate scenarios where the new product line succeeds or fails, offer insights into how this might affect supply chains, inventory management, marketing strategies, and even customer loyalty. This information can help the CEO and leadership team make more strategic decisions, adjusting plans ahead of time.
Boosting emotional intelligence
Time and time again, emotional intelligence has been proven to be a trait that sorts the great leaders from the good. However, even for the most empathic business leaders, constantly paying attention to the subtle verbal, non-verbal and written emotional cues of team members is next to impossible. Incredibly, numerous AI tools now exist to help leaders pick up on these cues, so that action can be swiftly taken to address the situation. For example, Receptivi is an AI-powered tool which analyses language patterns and provides insights into the emotional state of the writer. It can detect negative emotions such as anger or frustration in an email or chat message, and even signs of mental health conditions such as burnout, anxiety and depression. Similarly, Affectiva, an emotion recognition company, offers an AI tool that analyses facial and voice cues in real time to provide leaders with instant feedback on how employees are feeling during meetings or presentations. Of course, such tools do raise important questions about privacy and consent. It’s vital that leaders use such tools transparently and with good intentions, with the goal of building relationships and ensuring wellbeing rather than exerting power. It’s also important to recognise that neurodivergent team members may not express emotions in the same way.
A practical example: A company is undergoing a major restructuring due to various operational changes, which has caused a lot of uncertainty and stress among the employees. During a virtual team meeting to discuss the restructuring, accurately reading the room might be challenging. However, with the help of emotion recognition AI, leaders can receive real-time feedback on the facial expressions and voice tones of the participants. If the tool detects signs of confusion, frustration, or stress among the team members, leaders can modify their approach on the spot, perhaps by offering additional explanations, reassurances, or a moment to address concerns.
Personalised professional development
Being an exceptional leader means constantly updating your skills and knowledge, as well as boosting your confidence and credibility through handling complex and difficult business scenarios. It should come as no surprise, then, that AI-driven technology is revolutionising the professional development landscape, particularly for leaders promoted early on in their careers who may lack the required soft skills to manage teams effectively. For example, Butterfly.ai is a management coaching platform that uses artificial intelligence to collect real-time feedback from employees. Managers can then use this feedback to gain insight on factors that can enable them to make better people decisions, gain a top-level view of the organisation, and show employees that happiness is a top priority. Similarly, Cultivate is an AI-driven platform which offers insights and coaching based on real-word interactions, providing tailored growth and learning opportunities for managers based on goals and team dynamics.
A practical example: An employee has been recently promoted to team lead, and is taking charge of their first important project. This is a critical time in their professional development, as they need to establish a level of trust within their team, and to demonstrate that they can lead compassionately and with self-awareness. Platforms such as Cultivate can recognise when certain team members are contributing to the project effectively, and will prompt the manager to give feedback on a job well done. Platforms such as this can also help find blind spots managers may not be able to uncover independently. For example, they can reveal when most employees prefer to hold meetings, perform more focused work, and when they might need a break. All of this helps leaders to stay in tune with their team dynamics, becoming more effective within their role in the process.
Ultimately, being a great leader in an AI-driven world will depend on the ability to embrace the new technology as a powerful tool, and to be cautious in its application. Leaders will need the self-awareness and humility to understand where AI can be used to drive business operations more effectively, and to contribute to enhanced teamwork and dynamics. At the same time, they must understand concerns about privacy and consent, and ensure that all applications are implemented transparently and ethically. Handled well, AI will afford leaders greater time to focus on strategic thinking, creativity, and relationship-building – skills that are uniquely human, and indispensable in guiding organisations towards success.
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