Men and women using generative AI tool during group meeting

Generative AI calls for a New Style of Leadership

Is Generative AI a leader’s friend or foe?

Generative AI is a deep learning technology that can produce various types of content, including text, imagery and audio. All it takes is a prompt (such as asking a question) and AI returns new content that can include essays and solutions to problems. This technology is constantly changing and even evolves without our intervention. The riks and opportunities that can be far-reaching pose a dilemma for company leaders!

Employees have constantly changing generative AI technology at their fingertips.

In a recent survey of 3,000 full-time and part-time U.S. employees, 60% said they want to use generative AI tools more frequently at work during the next year. About 49% said they’re already using AI tools at least once a week at work, and 52% said they’re using the tools outside of work. (Source: Supply Chain Dive).

Many company leaders wonder how to control the use of generative-AI interfaces such as ChatGPT, Bard and Dall-E. There is a long and growing list of prominent companies that have banned ChatGPT from use internally. Their main concern is that ChatGPT could be used to leak confidential information, such as customer data, trade secrets or employee emails. They also see challenges in identifying the source of the content and possible bias and prejudice as well as the risks of copyright infringement, cyber-attacks and deep fakes.

Despite many companies’ inclination to block widespread use of generative AI technology, most also recognise the opportunity for generative AI tools to have a positive impact in the workplace due to increased efficiency, innovation and creativity. Organisations in all sectors are already experiencing the astounding benefits of generative A1 to design and interpret contracts, for a quick summary or analysis of complex information, the production of new content, images, videos and more. There is no doubt that generative AI will transform how we work and make critical business decisions.

What does all this mean for leaders?

The risks that have been identified are legitimate and have to be contained. This does not mean that a reactive, wait-and-see approach is appropriate. Putting a ban on the use of generative AI technologies without researching their potential and best practice use within their organisations, may even backfire. A proactive response is needed.

Based on my extensive contacts with a cross-section of staff members in a wide range of companies, I can confidently say that employees who are given the opportunity to use generative AI tools are less likely to leave the company. Ambitious employees with a desire to sustain their learning curve will otherwise leave in search of a workplace where they can benefit from generative AI as an education opportunity.

Many aspects of a leader’s approach and priorities will have to change for all-round success when implementing generative AI-based technologies. It starts with a robust implementation plan. More about that in a future article. But it doesn’t stop there.

Leadership styles will need to be overhauled to replace a ‘business as usual’ approach. Here are a few examples of changes that are required:

Better and faster decision-making processes. A new set of guiding principles is needed to facilitate effective decision-making.  Leaders should define which principles will apply to interactions with stakeholders, to information flows and checks and balances for trusted operations that embrace generative AI. These guiding principles will be crucial when decisions need to be made.

Turning generative AI from a risk to a competitive advantage, means that how teams are led should take on a new dimension too: performance evaluations can no longer be annual exercises. A shorter time frame for performance reviews is inevitable and automation of situation-based evaluation should be included in the assessment loop.

Work roles should be considered dynamic, i.e. constantly evolving, especially those that accommodate generative AI. Job descriptions have a short life cycle; in fact, so short that the value they once had, no longer exists. Leaders must support employees at all times to identify and focus on activities that add more value whereby using generative AI to enhance their performance.

My final example is that of idea generation: teams should be encouraged to  explore divergent thinking. For some time, companies have liked to promote divergent thinking as an asset but results in practice are often disappointing. Divergent thinking can finally become rewarding and motivational for all involved if generative AI is used to help employees identify new opportunities and evaluate and merge ideas.

If a new style of leadership and a sound implementation plan go hand-in-hand with incorporating generative AI, my answer to my opening question is that generative AI will be a leader’s invaluable aide in accelerating progress!

Janet Poot  – International Leadership & Accessibility Expert

Group of business people brainstorming and using AI tools