The Future of Leadership: Chat GPT, A.I. and Your Focus for 2023

The news of the past weeks have been turbulent. Geopolitical news, the World Cup,… and there has been one development that has flooded the professional social media channels recently: The release OpenAI‘s Chat GPT.

It has been released a couple of days ago and since then left almost everybody who used it breathless and speechless, including yours truly.

A revolution for brain work

A little sample? I have asked Chat GPT to write a 50 word poem about leadership. Here some words of the English original:

A leader’s path is never easy,

Their burdens great and responsibilities many.

But they march on, steadfast and true,

Guiding their flock through storm and blue.

With strength and wisdom, they provide,

A beacon of hope, a constant guide.

Their vision sharp, their will unbreakable,

They lead us forward, unshakeable.

Pretty good, isn’t it? It is different from everything many people have seen computers do before. It touches something that many people thought was only possible to do by human before.

Chat GPT and also its visual cousins Dall-E & others show us that the revolution in “white collar” work that has been forecasted for years is now here. And that means also a revolution in leadership needs to happen.

Some people think it’s only a gimmick, and produces only (so far) average high school grade answers. However, I think if your main job as a leader is consisting of reviewing and writing standard documents that your organizations have produced, or giving average advice, it’s now time to seriously re-think about your role.

Let’s therefore use this special time of the year to take a step back and reflect about your leadership. This is always a good idea, but now it becomes even more important. I think we need to ask ourselves the question: What is one field that you as a leader can add in 2023 that is truly unique? Here are some ideas:

Become more visionary

Seeing into the future and thinking about what could be is a unique human ability and probably THE one thing to focus on right now. As Jonathan Swift says „Vision is the art of seeing the invisible”. Use maybe all the tools to develop and paint a picture of the future that you want to create in your field of work and then inspire your team to drive towards this. Ask yourself: What is your vision for your field of influence for next year?

Develop & Focus on the “O-Rings”

In his insightful TED talk on automation, economist David Autor shares the O-Ring theory. An O-Ring is the simple plastic ring that costs 1€ but it is still vital for the success. If the O-ring is gone, all breaks down. The idea is that human contribution in the digital machine age is not the super-calculation (that has already gone with the advent of the calculator) and now maybe not the creation of the best 500 word report (which Chat GPT will do for you in 2 seconds), but rather to be metaphorically speaking an assembly of O-rings or to be a collector of connections that make the project, organization or company work. Therefore, ask yourself: What can you connect next year to make something new happen?

Foster Human Collaboration

The American Management Association has defined the four Cs for the 21st Century as Creativity, Communication, Critical Thinking and Collaboration. All of them are vital, and with the advent of new technologies we will have constantly rethink how people work together. Leaders can play a crucial role here, by being the empathic and inspirational drivers of change. Therefore, another key question to ask is: How can you make your group of people even work together better next year?

Cultivate Leadership humor

I have also asked Chat GPT another question: “Say something funny about leadership”. The answer was:

“Why is the leader always calm?

Because he had a delegating machine.”

This must probably be the worst joke to ever have been told about leadership. So there is hope, as humor looks at the pain points, the improvement areas, the things that are subtle and complex. And so far, there is still room for improvement in Chat GPT’s answers to these breakpoints and that is the focus of for true human contribution

Take time to reflect

The impact of the technologies like Chat GPT and associated technologies will continue to be massive. And if you are a manager focused on report writing, AI will probably threaten you. But if you are a true leader, there is a chance that AI will empower you to even become better.

Let’s use our time over the holiday season as well to re-think our leadership. As the change that is coming on this front is massive it needs visionary, connected and collaborative and maybe also humorous leaders who lead the way.

Lars Sudmann is a board advisor, author and keynote speaker. His latest book is called “Innovation that Sticks” and deals with how to innovate and navigate in uncertain environments.

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