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Leading, Managing, Doing, and AI

| February 27, 2024

by Shawn Harris

Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Shawn Harris, MOR Associates Executive Coach.  Shawn may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

In most MOR programs, in the first workshop, on the first day, we support participants’ self-awareness in how they spend their precious resource of time. We do this through a framework that inventories everything we do into three categories: Leading, Managing, and Doing. As artificial intelligence comes at us all at full speed, we wonder how AI might impact the evolving leader and our Leading, Managing, and Doing.

AI’s Impact on the Repeatable Tasks of Managing and Doing

Warren Bennis described the difference between managing and leading as “a manager does things right, and leaders do the right thing.” AI’s capability in automating routine tasks not only transforms the ‘Doing’ in our framework but also elevates ‘Managing’ from more repetitive duties, allowing leaders more space for ‘Leading’ and the strategic realm—envisioning the future and setting directions. The good news is that we can now widen our resources to delegate to. By delegating repetitive and data-intensive tasks to AI, we unlock the capacity for higher-level work, creativity, and strategic thinking.

As this evolution unfolds, organizational structures are likely to become flatter. With fewer layers of management, there will be more of a need for employees to lead from where they are. Leaders can make decisions quicker in response to market changes. Organizations will favor agile, cross-functional teams with the flexibility to adapt continuously. Nimble collaboration between humans and AI systems will become a competitive advantage. Communication and emotional intelligence will gain importance as coordinating large teams without hierarchy becomes critical. Leaders will need skills to create alignment and inspire people in this environment.

Increased People Priorities

Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI), AI capable of generating new content, will change hiring priorities. Demand will grow for talent skilled at building AI systems and integrating them into business processes. Pew Research found that jobs highly exposed to AI tend to require more analytical skills like critical thinking, mathematics, and complex problem-solving.

In this era, the essence of ‘Managing’ extends beyond traditional boundaries, as leaders prioritize change management, guiding and preparing their teams for a future interwoven with AI, incorporating the ‘Doing’ through continuous learning and the ‘Leading’ through visionary workforce development. They must communicate a compelling vision for human-AI collaboration that alleviates fears of job loss. With technology transforming work, leaders should champion continuous learning and development. Those who prepare their people will build durable talent pipelines.

The future of work is intrinsically linked to our ability to prepare our workforce for the new realities of an AI-driven world. This entails technical training and fostering a culture of adaptability, lifelong learning, and ethical reasoning. Leaders must champion initiatives that equip employees with the skills to thrive alongside AI, ensuring our organizations remain competitive and innovative.

Moreover, as we navigate the ethical terrain of AI integration, we must be vigilant in addressing issues such as data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the societal impact of automation. Ethical leadership in the age of AI demands a commitment to transparency, accountability, and fairness, ensuring that our AI initiatives are aligned with the greater good.

Strategic Thinking in the AI and GenAI Era

GenAI has the potential to automate specific analytical and data-processing tasks typically done by knowledge workers. According to Pew Research, 19% of American workers in 2022 were in jobs with activities highly susceptible to automation by AI. By delegating the ‘Doing’—the analytical legwork—to AI, leaders can invest more in ‘Managing’ through insightful interpretation and ‘Leading’ by crafting visionary, long-term strategies that navigate the AI-infused landscape.

With AI handling rote analytical work, leaders will need stronger abilities in systems thinking, seeing connections, and envisioning future scenarios. Strategic planning will become even more important as technological change accelerates. Leaders must regularly re-evaluate how new AI capabilities can be integrated into operations and strategy.

Concluding our exploration, it’s clear that AI doesn’t just change the way we lead, manage, and do; it amplifies our capacity to excel in these roles. The imperative for leaders now is to embrace AI, blending its capabilities with our human strengths. As leaders, we are called upon not just to adapt to this evolving terrain but to actively shape it. Our challenge, and indeed our opportunity, lies in redefining what it means to lead, manage, and do in an environment where AI not only supports but also enhances our human efforts. The call to action for you is to embrace this shift proactively: assess and realign how you lead with an eye towards innovation, manage with strategic intent, and execute with a blend of human creativity and AI efficiency. In doing so, we not only navigate the present but also lay the groundwork for a future where AI catalyzes growth, innovation, and enhanced human collaboration. As we stand on the brink of this new era, let us commit to leading the charge, harnessing the full potential of AI to elevate our organizations and, ultimately, society at large.

Last week, we asked how you plan to spend the gift of an extra day on Leap Day on February 29. The majority of responses related to building relationships, developing staff, or getting on the balcony to think strategically about the work of the team and opportunities to improve. Some of us decided to work on budgets or other continued needs.  A few of us decided to use the time personally for relaxing at the pool or other vacations. The most unique response was the couple who plans to celebrate the 44th anniversary (11th anniversary?) of their first date! What an extra special decision made 44 years ago on how to spend that Leap Day! Whatever you choose to do, we hope you do choose and use the opportunity to be intentional about focusing your time.