AI leadership

The Evolution of CEOs Role: How AI Impacted Leadership

The influence of artificial intelligence (AI) on leadership, business decision-making, and the competitive landscape is growing at an exponential rate. This isn’t a passing wave; it’s a fundamental reset. One that necessitates a complete redefinition of the skills and roles business leaders need to exist in this new AI-powered landscape.

It’s too soon to understand the long-term impact on everyone’s job; however, managers will continue to face the most challenges. Business leaders will need to develop the skills needed to understand which processes can be augmented by AI and which can be entirely replaced. They also need a deep comprehension of how to use AI ethically and responsibly.

Furthermore, C-Suite will have to take the lead on AI-native operations and business models. 

Few leaders today have both the organizational and AI knowledge needed for the coming phase, and closing this gap will be critical.

Market Shakeup: AI’s Impact in Numbers

Many businesses are “radically transforming” how they create, deliver, and capture value. This directly impacts the job description of C-Suites, middle management, and employees, according to global consultancy PwC’s 27th annual Global CEO Survey.

Whether they’re converting a traditional product into a software or software-enabled product; looking at customer channels and removing intermediaries; shifting the value chain into other segments; opening new markets, or many other examples. Most CEOs in PwC’s study confirm that executives are turning to generative AI (GenAI) as a critical tool to reinvent their businesses.

The survey shows that business leaders expect more pressure over the next three years than they experienced over the previous five from technology. 

More importantly, 45% of those surveyed believe their company will not be viable in ten years if it stays on its current path, up from the 39% reported a year earlier. The increase reflects a growing unease about AI’s role.

Fear of the evolving landscape isn’t the only factor promoting a faster shift, a 2023 global survey of 3,000 companies across 24 industries by technology giant IBM’s Institute for Business Value found that 64% of investors and 66% of board members surveyed companies are demanding an accelerated adoption of AI and shift in operations from business leaders.

The same survey found that 75% of CEOs believe their competitive advantage will depend on who has the most advanced generative AI integrated into their operations and products.

Similarly,  PwC’s survey shows that 69% of CEOs believe most employees, including themselves, will need to develop new skills in the next couple of years just to maintain their jobs. 

Furthermore, 64% of business leaders believe AI will increase the amount of work employees can accomplish, while 58% said it will improve the quality of their solutions, thus, increasing the company’s overall output and profitability. 

Some external factors are at play as well, slowing companies’ needed shift in operations, 56% of CEOs reported pending investments in their company due to a lack of clarity on the disruptive nature of AI and the regulatory landscape.

These numbers translate into a needed shift in how leaders lead, a re-examination of their set strategies and goals, how they communicate, and what they expect from their team.

AI impact on leadership

The Disruptive Impact of AI on Leadership

Most leaders aren’t equipped with the needed information and skillset to adapt to the current AI-powered market. According to IBM’s study, 61% of CEOs struggle with developing and applying consistent guidelines across different operations in their company.

Even more, 45% of leaders surveyed reported using AI to develop their strategies and make decisions. A move that’s been deemed ineffective and often damaging by several studies. Most research on the topic has pinpointed myriad issues, specifically how decision-making is based on intuition, common sense, and the ability to apply situation-specific experience, all of which aren’t present in AI.

To put it numbers, some 73% of tech experts reported concerns over potentially biased outcomes, with 63% already spotted biases in generative AI outputs, according to a March 2023 survey of more than 500 senior IT leaders by customer-relationship-management provider Salesforce. Similarly, the State of AI report in 2023 by global research firm McKinsey, found that 56% of leaders raised concerns over AI-data accuracy issues.

The role of AI in developing strategies should be limited to analytic support and access to more data.

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Enhanced Vision with AI’s Data Processing

Companies are drowning in data. Whether it’s complex operational metrics, user consumption patterns, or even customer retention levels, the sheer volume of information can be overwhelming. This is one of the main areas leaders can upskill in: the ability to use AI to drive decision-making and spot opportunities for new markets.

AI excels at analyzing vast datasets that would take humans years to sift through. It can identify trends, patterns, and anomalies across various areas of an organization, including:

1-Operations: AI can analyze production line data to predict equipment failures, optimize maintenance schedules, and identify bottlenecks that hinder efficiency.

2-Production: By analyzing real-time production data, AI can help leaders forecast demand, optimize resource allocation, and minimize production delays.

3-Consumer Behavior: AI can analyze user behavior data to understand how customers interact with your products or services. This allows leaders to personalize experiences, identify areas for improvement, and target marketing efforts more effectively.

4-Employee Productivity: AI can analyze employee activity data to identify patterns that highlight areas for improvement. This can help leaders tailor training programs, address burnout, and optimize workflows for better team performance.

Leading in the New Communication Era

AI has also reshaped businesses’ communication workflow, both internally and externally, as well as the leadership skills needed to keep track of it all.

In terms of internal communication, many AI-powered real-time translation tools can bridge language barriers, allowing for instant comprehension and a richer flow of ideas. Other tools allow you to create instant summary reports of employees’ tasks and performance. Both these types of AI-powered tools ease the expansion of your team to include a global pool of experts. 

In terms of external communication, many companies, especially those with a global customer base are using GenAI tools to streamline some of the customer service and after-sales marketing activity, and in essence free up their team to more impactful roles. Examples here include chatbots and automated marketing campaigns.

Leaders need to remain up-to-date with communication tools and lead their teams’ adoption of AI-business tools. They also need to set up incentives that encourage them to upskill themselves, and more importantly, leaders need to reassure employees that they are not being replaced.

C-Suits need to remain up-to-date with AI ethical concerns and privacy issues. They also need to keep their organization in line with new AI-related regulations.

Trusted AI is more than just compliant, safeguarded systems. It means deploying the right solutions for the right situation and using the right data, policies, and oversight to achieve relevant, reliable results. Achieving that requires an enterprise-wide approach and a set of trusted practices.

 AI Leadership Qualities 

The pace of technological change is relentless, and the only leaders who thrive in this environment are those who will have four qualities.

1-Fast adaptability: C-Suites need to be comfortable navigating ambiguity, readily embrace new tools and processes, and continuously learn to stay ahead of the curve. This requires an open mind, a willingness to experiment, and a focus on fostering a culture of lifelong learning within their teams.

2-The courage to experiment: No one knows the new AI tools that will launch in a few months, let alone one year from now. This means that leaders trying to offer the market innovative takes, that require R&D, strong shifts in position, and investment, are going in relatively blind. This demands the courage to fail, the resilience to learn, and the openness to seek feedback and coaching. 

By fostering a culture of safety where experimentation is encouraged and mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, courageous leaders can unlock innovation and navigate the inevitable challenges that come with implementing new technologies.

3- Emotional Intelligence: a growing reliance on AI and faceless interaction often results in emotionless interaction. This is a trap leaders need to avoid and ensure their team does as well.

CEOs with high emotional intelligence can better understand and manage their own emotions, as well as those of others. They can build trust and rapport with their teams, fostering a sense of collaboration and psychological safety. 

This is crucial for motivating teams, navigating complex human interactions, and ensuring that AI is implemented ethically and responsibly.

By cultivating these essential qualities, leaders can position themselves and their organizations for success in the exciting but uncertain world of AI.  They will be the ones who can harness the power of technology while leveraging their human strengths to build strong teams, navigate change, and drive innovation.

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