New breed of C-suite leaders will need to rethink their skills in the AI-era

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Sheryl Sandberg has been Facebook's COO since 2008.

By U2B Staff 

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What does technological advancement mean for leaders within organisations? As AI powers businesses in the digital era, C-suite leaders or those responsible for grooming the future pipeline of leaders will need to rethink about what it means to be a leader. 

Changes in the workplace are already happening swiftly; on a granular level, we’re seeing administrative tasks and customer service roles already being automated. 

At the top of the corporate ladder, C-suite leaders will also need to reassess their skillset and build their competencies in response to recent developments. 

In 2018, Harvard Business Review noted that, “Adaptable leaders are not afraid to commit to a new course of action when the situation warrants, and their adaptability allows them to confront challenges with a focus on learning rather than being right.”

They added that leaders’ hard skills will continue to be eclipsed by smart machines, while their soft skills will become ever more important.

“…leaders in the AI age need to be humble about others’ contributions, adaptable to the challenges that get thrown into their paths, steadfast in their vision of the ultimate destination on this path, and constantly engaged with the changing world around them,” it said.


Morphing into a C-suite leader of the future

AI and other forms of technology will continue to affect businesses as well as their practices.

Deloitte notes that AI is deployed across a wide spectrum to solve business problems, from managing and automating IT infrastructure, to gleaning new insights about customers, to identifying and responding to cyber threats, to helping guide medical decisions, to improving the hiring process. 

They add that in the past few years, more companies are experimenting with AI, advancing their data-related capabilities, acquiring new technologies and talent and integrating AI into their business processes. “In coming years, AI will likely become even more pervasive,” said Deloitte. 

With AI increasingly being integrated into the fabric of business, C-suite leaders’ leadership style can impact the adoption and strategy of AI within their organisations. 


Skills for the future

An Accenture report notes that managers spend the bulk of their time on coordination and control tasks, and that these are most expected to fall to intelligent systems in the future. This paves the way for soft skills and interpersonal skills to grow in importance in the future as technology takes over technical roles.  

Accenture said many managers exhibit a blind spot for interpersonal skills — or distinctly human qualities that will help to set them apart from AI in the workplace. 

Many of the new top skills managers think will be required in the future include digital aptitude, creative thinking and experimentation, data analysis and interpretation, and strategy development. 

“While creative, analytical and strategic skills are crucial for judgment work, digital capabilities will enable managers to collaborate effectively with machines—unlocking their true potential as fellow colleagues, not just devices,” it said. 

Other soft skills that will be useful for C-suite leaders include critical thinking and creativity for business ideas and solutions, which are skills that AI cannot perform efficiently yet. Emotional intelligence is another area which is uniquely human that can help leaders establish trust and build good relationships with their internal and external stakeholders.

Soft skills training can help leaders develop transferable skills, and can be easily honed through online courses, webinars and online workshops, to name a few. Google Digital Garage, for instance, offers free soft skills online courses in partnership with Open University.

At the end of the day, lifelong long learning will become essential for any C-suite leader or for future leaders of an organisation.