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Can AI Help Me Grow as a Leader?

| May 2, 2023

by David Sweetman

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Dr. David Sweetman, MOR Associates Program Leader and Consultant.  David may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.]

I recently watched a movie about a futuristic scientist who invented technology that could carry on a conversation with him, advise him, assist him, joke via memes, and oh-by-the-way, cook his breakfast too.  To make the plot even more interesting, the artificial intelligence developed skills the designer did not intend and occasionally saw the world in unintended ways.  Was this a modern day movie?  Nope.  It was Disney’s Flubber, made in 1997.  I’m a fan of Robin Williams movies, and this didn’t disappoint.  We could call the movie a prescient view of the future, or perhaps just one of many examples of our collective imagination of what AI might do.  And that fantasy has recently accelerated in moving toward reality.

There has been plenty written in recent months about using generative AI in higher education, including ChatGPT in the classroom, and impacts to undergraduate writing.

However, some of the earliest AI technologies were designed to help people learn and develop their knowledge.  It is to these roots we return today: How AI can help us grow as leaders?  I offer three suggestions:

  1. Enable more focus on the strategic:  It is valuable to be intentional when considering how we spend our time between leading, managing, and doing.  AI might enable greater efficiency for you and your team’s “doing” responsibilities, and some “managing” tasks so that you can spend more time on more strategic aspects of “leading” and “doing.”  For example, augmenting efforts of programming teams, call centers, project management, and more.
  1. The answer is in the (expanded) room:  In addition to the insights we gather from colleagues when confronting novel, complex issues, what insight might AI have to offer?  What specific questions might you ask to garner knowledge from this vast resource?  These questions could focus on the work of you and your team as well as questions to help you develop your personal skill set, including advice on handling tough conversations and other communications.  AI can not only provide ideas, but also synthesize key ideas from large volumes of input.  How do you then vet those ideas for accuracy and feasibility?
  1. Lead from where you are:  You and your team know the needs you fill to best serve your organization, and you know those needs to an unparalleled depth. How could those needs be better served?  Don’t just tinker with AI, go all in for your exploration.  Paint a picture of your desired future state, consider how AI may help fill the gap between that and your current state, consider how you’ll measure success, and then try it out.

Efficiency, learning, and enhanced user experience.  As leaders we can use AI as a tool to help achieve these ends. That was my take; now it’s AI’s turn.  After writing my three points, I asked ChatGPT for three points on how AI can help us grow leaders.  The AI-generated response (with only slight editing) is below:

  1. Automation: AI can automate routine tasks and processes, freeing up your time to focus on higher-level strategic activities. This can help you be more productive and efficient as a leader.
  1. Data Analysis: AI can help you analyze large amounts of data to identify patterns and trends that can help you make better decisions as a leader. You can use AI-powered tools to analyze customer feedback, employee performance data, and financial data to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
  1. Personalization: AI-powered tools can provide you with personalized insights and recommendations based on your unique leadership style and needs. For example, AI-powered speech recognition software can help you improve your communication skills. You can use these tools to analyze your speech patterns, identify areas for improvement, and practice your communication skills.

Efficiency, learning, and personal growth.  How did I compare with ChatGPT?  Largely similar with some differences.  I’m not sure how I feel about the similarities and differences between my responses and an AI.  I asked ChatGPT how it felt about my answers being similar-yet-different and got the expected response from AI: “I do not have feelings or emotions.”  And I think that matters.  I am thankful for my emotions and ability to be empathetic of others, a human connection that will not be replaced by technology.

There are of course cautions we should consider with this, or any new technology.  Managing bias, ensuring equal access, mitigating false information and unintended consequences, creating traceability, handling intellectual property, managing privacy, security, and more.

As this simple example illustrates, AI can be complementary in our leadership toolkit.  However, as with any tool, it works great for some circumstances and not as well for others.  It also has some limitations to thoughtfully consider when implementing.

Please make your day a leaderful one for you and your team.

P.S. You’ll notice a fresh look to our Tuesday Reading email this week.  This corresponds to a similar fresh look and update on the MOR website.

P.P.S. Photo credit. AI-generated via DALL-E.

Which best describes your current pursuits with AI?

Last week we asked what’s something you could do for a colleague that may be going through a tough time?

  • 40% said reach out.
  • 37% said make yourself available.
  • 18% said do something small that could make a big difference.
  • 5% said something else.

Thank you for all the feedback from people who felt so moved and touched by last week’s reading, and the important reminder it provided to us as leaders.  Investing time in someone who may be going through a tough time was the theme of our responses.  However, that took different forms, from proactively reaching out, to doing something small, to simply letting the other know you are available.  Which approach is best is largely a function of the circumstances and what the individual needs at that moment in time.  Unlike this week’s article, that is not something to automate with AI, but rather is a foundation to the relationships we build with other people.