The Future of Work: 5 Ways Leadership Will Change in an AI Economy

by | Feb 28, 2017 | approachable leadership

Do you worry about what the future of work in your job or industry looks like?

Me too. Every day some new technological revolution is announced that promises to transform an industry. The difference between today and, say, 10 years ago (ancient history in Internet years) is that I believe that the promises about the future of work will live up to the hype.

To say today’s pace of change is breakneck doesn’t really do it justice. It is easy to imagine that the way we manufacture, transport and purchase goods and services will be hard to recognize 5 to 10 years from now.

Autonomous vehicles will completely disrupt the logistics business. All of the hours we spend in traffic today will suddenly become available for other things (I’d guess mostly time on whatever the next Facebook is). We will have same day delivery of about anything we can think of. Some things we’ll just print at home or at a local store.

Virtual reality will become so realistic that our entertainment will also transform. Who needs movie theaters or amusement parks when you can just put on some goggles and transport yourself into a new world? Movies and video games will continue to converge.

Change means destruction AND creation.

Leaders must prepare for both. Artificial Intelligence will automate more and more tasks that are done today by humans. Machines will become as effective as humans at an astonishing number of tasks, disrupting service industries like healthcare, education, insurance, banking, law, and many others. (China acquired over 160,000 robots in 2015). Many more jobs we consider “high skilled” will go away or become “low skilled” and less valuable.

At the same time new jobs will be created. They’ll require completely new skills. The good news is that the way we educate is also likely to transform. This is good news for lifelong learners. It is bad news for traditional education providers and for people who aren’t interested in learning new skills – many people will become unemployable in jobs that can support a family.

I’ve been doing some interviews with clients and thought leaders over the last month or so researching my next book. We inevitably end up talking about the pace of change and how it is likely to impact their industry. It will be a big topic of conversation at the upcoming CUE Conference. (Not signed up yet? What are you waiting for?)

How will automation and artificial intelligence change the future of work and leadership?

It is easy to look at all these possibilities and get pessimistic. Major structural changes to the economy create major disruption (like when the world shifted from primarily agricultural to an industrial economy). But these changes also create tremendous opportunity. As leaders we must focus on taking advantage of the opportunities and helping our teammates adjust to the massive changes.

Ironically, all this technological change actually increases the importance of human connection and strong leadership skills. After all, these are the kinds of things that will be impossible for machines to do. This means we have to “level up” our leadership skills. One of the best articles I’ve seen on the key skills needed for the future of work suggests 5 critical ways work (and leadership) will change in an AI economy.

Our next post will look at how the future of work – and leadership – will change in an AI economy. We suggest 5 ways work will change, and some of the key leadership skills you’ll need to get ahead of the curve. Stay tuned for that.

What do you think AI and machines will mean to your workplace? What keeps you up at night when you think about automation? What opportunities do you see? Are there frustrations or gaps in your current job that technology could fix? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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