As computers replace skilled practitioners in fields such as architecture, aviation, the law, and medicine, senior executives are asking themselves if artificial intelligence (AI) could take over the C-suite—and what their jobs would be if it did. Back in 2014, a McKinsey team realized that “brilliant machines,” paradoxically, would transform the senior executive’s role through the human touch: the questions they frame, their skill in eliminating exceptions highlighted by algorithms, and their ability to do things machines can’t, such as tolerating ambiguity when they make decisions and using the “softer” side of management to engage the organization.
The authors also saw that this new role would require senior leaders to change their behavior and expectations. As AI grows in power, the likelihood of sinking under the weight of even quite valuable insights grows as well. The solution would be to democratize information by encouraging business units and functions to make more and better decisions themselves. To learn how the mounting importance of both soft management skills and high technology makes the senior executive’s work more interesting and complex, read “Manager and machine: The new leadership equation.”
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