// . //  Insights //  What Leaders Need To Succeed In The Age Of Generative AI

The fundamental nature of leadership hasn’t changed in centuries — but nearly everything else about it has.

Today’s workforce is more diverse and has far more sources of ideas and influences than it did even 20 years ago. Employees may not be able to discern which of them have real merit, sowing skepticism and eroding cohesion both in and out of the workplace. More and more, they are looking to their company leaders to fill the role of trusted authority, and to provide a sense of belonging that in the past they might have gotten through familial, neighborhood, and community connections.

One avenue by which savvy leaders can energize employees and create a shared mission is the adoption of new technology. The advent of generative artificial intelligence (AI) offers a unique opportunity to empower workers and rethink their roles, while also significantly improving business performance. To accomplish that, company executives will need to dedicate rigorous attention to the ways generative AI could change the entire organization, and specifically the effects — both positive and negative — that it will have on the rank and file. Here are three things that leaders need to be thinking about right now.

1. The impact of generative AI on the workforce and its functions

As generative AI changes workplace roles, leaders must determine how to motivate employees, develop them, and allay their fears. The more reliant the company becomes on the technology to the exclusion of human beings, the more challenging it will become for people to feel connected to one another and to the company’s purpose. If they don’t feel like they belong, it will be difficult to nurture them to reach their full potential at work.

In the past, there was a belief that using new technologies for simple, time-consuming tasks would free employees to spend more of their time on higher-level work. Take, for just one example, how computers replaced manual typewriters: Who uses Wite-Out anymore to correct mistakes?

But given generative AI’s ability to perform creative functions, that belief may no longer hold true. The change leaves leaders with a different decision to make: Which jobs are they comfortable letting the tech take care of — especially knowing how prone it is to “hallucinations” — and which should they design for the humans to perform?

Of course, every leader will have different criteria. But at a macro level, they should ensure that certain key functions remain in human hands, such as differentiating the company’s offerings and protecting them from being copied by competitors. Generative AI certainly can be used to assist in such efforts, but it isn’t (yet) equipped to handle them alone.

2. The spectrum of possibilities from using generative AI, both positive and negative

Missteps with technology often reflect a failure of imagination. The best leaders can imagine all the potential outcomes of developing and using generative AI, even as the constant demand for productivity gets in the way of bigger-picture thinking. That requires them to be curious, to constantly look outside the bounds of their day-to-day functions for new sources of inspiration that will help them stay on top of innovation. Imaginative leaders read, journal, and simply reflect. They ask their customers and employees about their frustrations and try to brainstorm solutions. And they cultivate a workplace that allows others to use their imaginations and showcases their bold ideas.

Anticipating the possibilities extends to the pitfalls as well. This is a common blind spot for leaders — a big part of their job is to recognize where things could go wrong with the technology, where the company is too dependent on it, and what the guardrails should be. They can enlist others on the team to contribute, as long as they maintain a culture where people are comfortable bringing up bad news.

3. The right questions to ask tech teams

AI is an organization-wide responsibility. But technology has changed so much that leaders who have risen within a specific department may not have sufficient knowledge for their role. Here again, imagination and curiosity are vital. Leaders must be open-minded, identifying their knowledge gaps and continually asking questions of tech experts to fill them. With that kind of environment established, a company can reap huge benefits from any new technology. Generative AI is only the latest example.