AI Will Empower Leaders, Not Replace Them
We tend to associate artificial intelligence with efficiency, focusing on all the work it can save. What gets a lot less discussion is how AI can empower.
Take leadership as an example. Good leadership depends on making the right decisions at the right time. AI helps with the decision-making process because it can turn vast amounts of data into actionable insights. It helps leaders navigate away from bad decisions and toward better ones, which is exactly what we expect leaders to do.
AI also clears distractions by automating a lot of the “busywork” tasks that drain leaders’ time and attention. Once that work is out of the way, leaders can focus more of their efforts on motivating and guiding those they lead.
It’s not hard to imagine a future where AI, machine learning, and big data are a leader’s most important tools. Smart technology will be used every day to answer tough questions, expedite information sharing, automate distracting workloads, and integrate team resources. Using these innovations, leaders will be able to maximize their time, impact, and effectiveness.
Some may worry that technology will replace leaders entirely, creating a situation where teams report to robots. However, these technologies ultimately provide a way to reinforce the human qualities of leaders and their teams. When technology handles jobs no one wants and answers questions no one person can, it empowers everyone to optimize their individual contribution—leaders especially. Basically, technology does what it excels at so humans can, too.
To understand how this will look in action, consider some examples of how leaders will use AI to improve everything they do:
Setting Realistic (But Ambitious) Goals
For most of history, leaders relied on informed guesses to set goals. AI removes the subjectivity from the process. It ensures that goals and other important decisions are based on hard data and empirical analysis. It doesn’t guarantee perfect outcomes. The chances of favorable results, however, certainly improve when decisions are based on objectivity.
The online supermarket company Ocado is a great example of how AI improves decision-making. Ocado relies on AI to forecast demand for each of the more than 50,000 items it offers. By relying on data-driven insights instead of human estimates, the company makes better decisions. Ranging from pricing to ordering to shipping, it makes complex determinations that affect its bottom line. In this case, AI takes unknowns and turn them into assets.
Improving Morale and Engagement
Leaders are supposed to focus on the big picture, but too often, they get bogged down in details.AI can either automate or expedite a lot of work that wastes the most time during decision-making. Not surprisingly, when leaders can focus on what’s most important, the company’s outlook improves as well. AI can also strengthen morale and engagement among employees, giving leaders a stronger workforce to leverage.
Sagi Eliyahu, co-founder and CEO at Tonkean, says AI usage can give leaders more time for strategic planning and projects. This results in more fulfilling work for everyone. “With AI, more routine functions can be automated, taking them off of our shoulders so we can be more action-oriented and creative in our workdays, he notes. “Eliminating as much mundane activity as possible will drive greater job satisfaction and lead to greater productivity.”
Ending Analysis Paralysis
Because leaders are ultimately responsible for just about everything under the company umbrella, it’s easy to get trapped in analysis paralysis. That’s when leaders spend so much time trying to decide what to do next that they end up doing nothing at all. AI offers a kind of signpost, combing through data to find the issues (good and bad) that require the most attention.
Ali Hasan R., co-founder and CEO of ThroughPut Inc, describes how this can work: “A smart program will run constant algorithms to pinpoint exactly where inefficiencies crop up, enabling you to direct your resources where they’re most needed. Running these analyses manually can take years and millions of dollars that might be more wisely invested.” Leaders are constantly trying to answer the same fundamental question: “What do we do next?” AI has a unique ability to supply the answer—and be right.
These days, the conversation around AI focuses too much on the artificial and not enough on the intelligence. The real advantage of AI isn’t the work that it can replicate—it’s the work it can empower. Leaders, take note.