Will AI replace leaders in the workplace of the future?

There’s no doubt that AI will fundamentally change the way that work is done and the skills that are sought in the workplaces of the next five years

By Kate King

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Published: Sun 21 May 2023, 11:25 PM

You will no doubt be aware of the current hype around the radical shift that we are on the cusp of in terms of AI in the workplace. The World Economic Forum recently released its Future of Jobs report, predicting that AI will drive 83 million “structural” job cuts in 5 years.

This comes hot on the heels of the Goldman Sachs analysts view that “a new wave of AI systems [and] shifts in workflows triggered by these advances could expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation”.

There’s no doubt that AI will fundamentally change the way that work is done and the skills that are sought in the workplaces of the next five years.

But what about leadership, surely we can’t replace leaders with robots?

Well, I have news for you. If you’re a leader who thinks your value comes from your strategic decision-making ability - watch out, AI will replace you!

These highly prized and honed ‘strategic skills’ – such as analysing market trends, identifying growth opportunities and potential acquisitions — will soon be outsmarted by AI.

It won’t be long before AI can analyse vast data sets, provide insights and make future recommendations more precisely than any human can.

So will we need human leaders at all in the age of AI?

One thing is for sure – AI will make decision-making based on an algorithm quicker, more accurate and more egalitarian than human cognitive processing.

What will be important then will be empowering teams to implement these decisions as quickly as possible – maybe even without the bottle neck that managers can be. Early studies show that people like being managed by AI – in an AI at Work study conducted by Oracle 64 per son said they would trust a robots advice more than their manager’s.

If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be simpler to take human leaders out of the equation altogether? What will be the unique value add of human leaders in an age of AI?

Of course, it’s not an either/or, zero sum game. Used properly, AI will make us smarter and more efficient. We will spend less time being content-focussed, which will free us up to make the impact that only humans can – by being context focussed.

‘Soft’ skills will be the only skills humans will be employed for in future -

  • To connect with, care about, motivate, inspire, empower, coach and mobilise the people we work with
  • To be creative, generate collaboration and bring intuition to a situation
  • To widen the perspective to see a holistic, long-term and unusual point of view, with a consideration of impact – to lead wisely, not just smartly
  • To be responsible by applying ethical and social principles to the pursuit of profit to achieve a purpose-driven, meaningful future for all stakeholders

This will be the focus of leaders in the future – and already is for some of the best.

In short, no machine can replicate Leadership Soul. So if you want to make sure you are still relevant in leading the businesses of the future, it might be time to focus on developing your EQ, not just your IQ.

The writer has been a Master Executive and Team Transformation Coach practising globally for 20+ years at C-Suite level across industries.

Kate is accredited as a Master Executive Coach by the Association of Professional Executive Coaches.

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