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What skills will future leaders need to manage AI?

23rd March 2021 |

Artificial intelligence (AI) will never replace the role of a leader, but it’s certainly changing the nature of leadership. Traditionally, leaders have been expected to bring a mixture of hard and soft skills to the table, but now, many of these more technical hard skills are simply not required. Instead, AI can carry out processes such as data analysis, coding and budgeting, leaving humans to make full use of their interpersonal skills.

For this reason, future leaders must prioritise developing their soft skills, capitalising on their strengths and always looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. But which skills will be most important over the coming years?

Emotional & Cultural Intelligence

When faced with the unknown, employees seek reassurance from their peers. Nine times out of 10, the person isn’t looking for a logical solution to a problem – they’re looking for empathy, understanding and real, human connection. And, if there’s one thing for us all to learn from the past year, it’s that this is critical during challenging times and periods of transition.

Humans have a unique ability to make others feel seen, heard and understood by attaching meanings to the scenario in front them, and cultural intelligence allows us to take what we learn in one situation, then apply it to the unique context of another. This isn’t something that can be rivalled by AI, and it’s a quality that all successful leaders must draw on if they are to establish trust and build rapport with both their workforce and their clients.

Learning Agility

Given the speed at which AI is transforming business models, existing knowledge and technical skills will quickly become outdated. All leaders – regardless of their level of experience – must be prepared to let go of the ideologies that are potentially holding them back and be open to continually learning and developing new skills.

‘Learning agility’ is the term used to describe a person’s ability to draw on their past experiences and available resources to determine how best to approach new, unfamiliar situations. Agile learners are able to quickly get to grips with new technologies, meaning fewer opportunities slip through the net and less time is wasted.

Vision & Values

AI may be taking over data-driven tasks, but there’s still a very human aspect required in decision-making and strategic planning. The business landscape is always changing, sometimes more rapidly than others, and it’s down to business leaders to be able to visualise the bigger picture and how this impacts the organisations’ long-term overarching aims.

Of course, AI can draw on data to predict outcomes, but it can’t take into account the business’ core values, company culture and the context in which the business operates. For this, real human leaders will always have the most value to offer.

Tomorrow’s leaders must home in on their current strengths, bolstering their existing soft skills by regularly asking for (and acting on) feedback, observing the success of others and stepping out of their comfort zone to learn and adapt when necessary. Soon, we will all be working alongside AI, in one form or another, but is how we choose to harness it and use it to our advantage that will shape our future in the workplace.

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