Manager vs Machine: essential skills in times of AI

Wednesday, 30. January 2019

Manager vs Machine:
essential skills in times of AI

In the past years, technology has made huge progress in the field of AI – learning software puts more and more work processes and business models under scrutiny. But in general, digital change also affects the way leadership works. Old leadership dogmas and practices are more and more under pressure to prove their legitimacy and have to be adapted to a highly dynamic environment.

For this reason, it can be assumed that in the future, even a new generation of leaders will be in demand. However, what kind of skills will managers need to be successful in a working world dominated by AI? We believe that in the future, in particular four skills will be key.

1. A Basic Understanding of Technology

Innovation erkennen webNo doubt technology will become more and more ubiquitous at workplaces — this leads to new challenges when it comes to establishing competences, roles within the team, data management, data protection etc. Therefore, the first and foremost requirement for future managers is obvious: They will have to understand the new technologies in order to identify emerging problems at an early stage and to countersteer. Will managers need coding skills in the future?

No, for this is more about a basic understanding of digital processes and business models, so they can estimate employees’ expertise and make use of it in an ideal way. So one of the core tasks for future managers will be to find employees with the required specialist knowledge, to integrate them into teams and to boost their individual strengths.

2. An Empathic Leadership Style
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A totally new generation of employees is about to enter the market, and they don’t fancy egocentric leadership practices – the so-called “millennials” expect leadership on an equal footing. Hierarchic structures will become obsolete: “I’m the boss here, and you do as I say” will become a thing of the past. Communicational aspects and relationship management will become more and more important.

In addition to this, managers will have to keep track of how the development of their teams is affected by continuous new technological developments: In a world dominated by AI and based on algorithms and probability calculations soft skills, such as asking critical questions and solving problems by means of creative approaches, will become more and more significant. 

3. Intercultural Competence and Team Building

team gute stimmung webLeading collaborative teams with the right mix of responsibility and constructive criticism will be one of the decisive skills for future managers. On the one hand, teams collaborating inter-divisionally or getting support from external suppliers are becoming more and more popular. Even teams collaborating internationally are not that rare any more. On the other hand, teams have become more and more diverse in a demographic way: Generation Z is about to enter the market, while the so-called baby boomers are likely to work far beyond the traditional retirement age.

However, managers should see this future team diversity as a chance when it comes to encouraging innovative ideas and prompt results: Often, different points of view on a problem and lively discussions lead to a solution quicker than wide consensus and undisrupted harmony among all employees.

4. Critical Reflection and Relentless Optimization

Spiegel webProfound economic change will force enterprises to keep reinventing themselves or at least orienting themselves anew. Making long-term plans, as it used to be possible, will become more and more difficult because of discontinuous developments – so this will be more about setting goals roughly and re-adjusting them all the time on the way. In the future, it will become more and more important for managers to keep track of any aspect and effect of their work and the work of their team: Smart tools showing KPIs on a few clicks and presenting information that’s specific for the according target group will help.

Conclusion: Human or Machine?

Undoubtedly, the requirements for future leaders will be high with the digitalization growing more and more complex. Nonetheless, we are convinced: Also in the future human beings will not be replaceable by machines when it comes to good leadership. In the age of brilliant machines it will make a difference to be human – anytime, when asking the right questions is key. When you have to react to extraordinary circumstances quickly. And when an interface between human beings and technology is needed. In short: When it comes to the soft side of management which keeps organizations together and enables them to reinvent themselves over and over again.