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Is leadership effectiveness impacted by AI?

Dean Fulford of Stratford Group

Will AI change the way leaders lead? Maybe not as much as you think.

Technology alone won’t make teams better performers. For team dynamics to thrive, leaders need to empathize with others, be adaptable, and communicate expectations clearly.

I think there’s little debate on whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) can supercharge your strategy… we fairly easily slip into thinking about how we can automate, predict, time-reduce and quality improve operational tasks and processes with AI. Just recently, our colleague Laura Peddie provided some excellent and thought-provoking “intelligent” concepts on how AI adoption might influence People & Culture.

However, will the adoption of AI into our everyday work have an impact of how leaders lead? In doing some research about this topic, the hair on my neck bristled when I read:

“…once AI has become emotionally and consciously intelligent, the more authoritative management attitudes towards algorithms would have to change towards the same management style with which each member of the organization is treated” (Smith & Green, 2018)

As I read it, the more intelligent the tool becomes, the more uniform we would treat people in our teams. Ummm, what? Do we throw out our learning about behaviours, being adaptive, situational leadership, etc.? I’m very interested in what you think.

To me, the best teams will continue to be the ones who balance the interplay of the defined mandate of a team (what the team must deliver for the organization) AND the interpersonal dynamic (how team members must work together to deliver on your mandate).

To enable the team dynamic to be at its best, it’s the leader’s role to be understanding of others, to be willing (and able) to flex to meet their needs and commit to providing clarity of expectations. I cannot see teams being better performers because there’s increased trust in the tools they use; teams will be their best because they all know how their work uniquely contributes to the value the team as a whole brings to the organization.

This investment made by leaders to being clear, and being understood, leads directly to having strong trust in this leader-employee relationship. There are scientific models developed that link stronger trust important business outcomes like increasing productivity, having more energy at work, collaborating better with colleagues, and reducing attrition.

In light of these considerations, it’s reassuring to realize that our focus on leadership is not endangered by the rise of AI. The essence of leadership remains intact: we still need leaders who can adapt to the ever-changing needs of their employees, regardless of the tools at their disposal.

This point was really driven home after taking in an excellent presentation at a local HRPA event, Maurice Le Maire from Sia Partners helped me make some better sense of it. In their view, adoption of AI technologies will likely make the operational side of HR much more uniform (maybe less flexible?) however we’ll still need leaders to continue to lead in a way the meets all their employees where they are.

As we navigate the integration of AI into our workplaces, leaders should remain steadfast in their commitment to the art of leadership. AI can enhance operational efficiency, but it is the human element that will always be the cornerstone of effective leadership. Leaders who adapt, empathize, and support their teams will undoubtedly thrive in this new era, ensuring that the heart of leadership remains robust and enduring.

I’m pleased to hear the shine is back on the “Platinum Rule”!

About Dean

Dean brings more than 20 years of experience and a deep expertise in leadership development, organizational development and design, project management, process mapping, and best-practice bench marking activities.

With an extensive background in organization development and effectiveness, performance consulting and process improvement, Dean compliments his HR background with strong process management and competency-based project experience. With an Engineering degree he brings a high technical aptitude to his engagements that make him a credible voice with deeply technical clients.

He is a member of Stratford’s Leadership team, responsible for its Leadership Development practice area, bringing both product innovation and operational effectiveness to these services.

Dean has held HR Executive roles in high technology and financial services firms, responsible for design, implementation, and oversight of organizational development, effectiveness, and human resource programs at both the local and global levels. Dean’s particular areas of expertise include:

  • Leadership development strategy and program development
  • Instructional design and facilitation; talent management program design and implementation
  • Process design and project management
  • Driving pragmatic, metrics-driven solutions