What New Skills Will Leaders Need in the Era of Robots and Artificial Intelligence?

We are in a period of transition. And that entails growing pains. I empathise with my many clients who are suffering in climates of fear, mistrust and scarcity around their offices. This seems to affect every large company I work with to some extent. Over and over again I hear about destructive and toxic behavior that impacts people negatively. People setting each other up for failure, highlighting others’ mistakes, spreading rumours about colleagues and pandering to the boss in hopes it will help make their job more secure.

At the same time, the “fat” is being cut from budgets, then cut, then cut again. My clients are often doing the job of three people, with a quarter of the benefits that were offered to them 20 years ago. It is painful and I believe it is part of the process we need to go through to get to a better age.

There is a lot of talk about jobs being lost to automation and robots, and that the advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence) will be the end of plentiful jobs and prosperity. So-called Technological Unemployment.

I disagree! It is just an illusion fuelled by a scarcity mentality. Jobs will change, but the overall number of jobs will be enough. Every time in history that there has been a major change, there has been fear of not enough jobs.

When they invented the mechanical reaper, people worried about all the farm-hands that would face unemployment. But with all the new-found efficiency, much more food became available so food prices dropped. More and more varied foods became available to a wider audience and therefore nutrition and life-span increased. And suddenly so much more food was available that it could be distributed and even exported. There were grocery stores to be opened, manned, stocked, and managed. New jobs!

When they invented the car, people worried about the fate of the blacksmiths and carriage drivers. However, they didn’t think of all the factory workers who would have to make those cars, not to mention the designers, engineers, distributors, and vendors who suddenly had a life-changing product to bring to the world. New Jobs!

You get the picture.

It is the same today. Sure, data-entry jobs may soon be a thing of the past, but there are also new jobs that we never could have considered just a few years ago; like UX (User Experience) designers, agile coaches, social media managers, content curators, and more.

We also forget that the power of AI will not just be used by the big companies out there; it will be at all of our fingertips. Life will be easier and more efficient for all of us. From booking travel to sorting through emails to managing data, addresses, photos and more.

Here’s my hope – that all tasks and jobs will be able to be done faster and more efficiently. Hopefully we will get to the place where everyone works just 6 hours a day. Maybe it will mean jobs will be less cushy – no fat-cat bonuses, no fancy client dinners, no over-the-top conferences, no company gyms…but instead people will get their private lives back! Less cushy jobs, but less work. Period. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Our ultra-fast-changing world is creating new jobs we couldn’t have even fathomed a decade ago. It is also creating a different generation of employee; one who demands autonomy, ownership, meaning. This new age demands a different kind of leadership as well:

  • Leaders that search for opportunity in uncertainty.
  • Leaders that value creativity and have the self-confidence to step into the unknown and make decisions with next-to-no certainty.
  • Leaders that have the courage to let their employees work against goals rather than against a timeclock.
  • Leaders who take responsibility for their impact, and ownership of their decisions, even when they are unconventional or unpopular.

So let us not focus on lack, let us expand our minds and search for the new opportunities that are being formed by all this technological innovation. It is an exciting time to be alive so let’s enjoy it!

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