What are the fundamental leadership capabilities that are needed for an era of exponential technology and AI innovation?

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Director, Experience Design in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I think Alivin Toffler said it best: "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."

The most important attribute, then, is curiosity. The most important habit is holding to ones own thoughts about how things are done quite loosely - because a lot of what worked in the past does not work today and will not work in the future. The critical skill is to experiment constantly, to apply the new technologies that are coming at an ever increasing pace, always asking how this new technology can be applied to the benefit of the organizations, communities, and people we serve.

And as a leader - empowering your teams to do the same.
29 3 Replies
CEO in Hardware, Self-employed

Agreed about curiosity, but let me qualify it: Be curious - WITHOUT AGENDA! 

CDO in Software, 10,001+ employees

Very very insightful

Director of HR in Manufacturing, 5,001 - 10,000 employees

And I would say the ability to be a life long learner. 

CIO in Energy and Utilities, 11 - 50 employees
2. Embrace and promote change
3. Don't judge and don't promote judgement
4. Think, evaluate and then argument
5. Communicate and lead for company-aligned objectives, all is allowed in this framework
6. Be the first to propagate good ideas and credit your team for them
CEO in Software, Self-employed
Besides what others here already pointed out - curiosity, learning, all, also being agile in all aspects of the business seems increasingly important.

Leading will continue to lead people, humans, hence great people leadership will stay critical to hire and retain best talent. 

Overall it looks like the "same old, same old"  styles will bring competitive disadvantages at a higher speed than ever. This could be a serious challenge for larger organizations which can't be agile or intentionally avoid agility due to the potential risks (real or perceived). 

Last thought about that non agile mindset - I vividly remember larger corporations who for a long time were hanging on to the MS Explorer web browser, even long after MS stopped supporting it and it had know security issues. Internal processes, rules, policies, hierarchical approval chains and all reduced the speed of change greatly. 
Nobody will be able to afford slow speed any more. 

Global Head of AI, Data & Analytics in Software, 10,001+ employees
With optimisation and automation opportunities we are seeing, leadership skills, growth mindset and emotional intelligence will reign supreme.
Micromanagers beware
Director of Marketing in Software, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
Technology development and evolution historically offered leaders great opportunities to innovate, break the rules, establish new ways of producing goods and services. From the early industrial revolution to the recent AI and ML breakthroughs, technology has provided new platforms to rethink how we engage with each other, help society grow and get things done. This requires the ability to constantly learning and imagining a new role for humans, in the context of a highly tech-driven environment. So for me leaders should certainly keep up the pace with tech developments, but keep focusing on leading people. The role of human beings might change, but in the end we remain fairly basic forms of life that need guidance, support, empathy, direction. AI, ML, quantum computing will make us more effective, but we remain the fragile individuals that happen to spend a tiny fraction of time on this beautiful planet.
CMO in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
Chief Executives will increasingly become Chief Navigators too, as exponential or emerging technologies will reshape the world. Having competitors or disruptions are not new for businesses or leaders, however, it is going to become more frequent and intense. 

The key pillars to running the business in the digital world - Strategy, People, Technology, Data, and Business models - are going to be there. On top of these, I would like to add 3 more capabilities that are not covered most often. 

1. Human-Centered Technologist

2. Asymmetrical Risk Taker

3. Architect of the Company’s Moat

In fact, your question has prompted me to delve more into this topic. Will publish a long-form article soon. 
7 1 Reply
CMO in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees

As promised, here is the long form article on this topic - authored by me.

Long form article:
Chief Executives will increasingly become Chief Navigators too, as exponential or emerging technologies will reshape the world. Having competitors or disruptions are not new for businesses or leaders, however, it is going to become more frequent and intense. So, what are some of the leadership skills we need to consciously build?
The key pillars to running the business in the digital world - Strategy, People, Technology, Data, and Business models - are going to be there. On top of these, this article outlines, a few capabilities that are not covered most often. 
1. Human-Centered Technologist:
Every company’s core could possibly be tech-driven. So, understanding the technology, its human users, cith* (all life forms) users & acith* (non-life forms) ingredients is going to be critical. [*Samskritham / Sanskrit words]. There are many tech giants who have gone to reach sky-high valuations but fail to understand the addictiveness of their tech. When companies care for their users’ well-being, including mental health, won’t that add more stickiness?

Weighing the results of every action and assessing how it affects (positively or negatively) everyone. What can be the remedial actions for those who are negatively affected? In the past, when scientists spoke about the negative effects of leaded petrol, those in power discounted those voices. The same was the case with X-Rays (to check even one’s shoe fitting X-Ray was used) and only after decades regulations followed.
So, leaders and companies should not wait for the regulations but they need to show ‘humaneness’ and self-regulate. Of course, they need to take risks too without that progress won’t happen.
2. Asymmetrical Risk Taker:
The world and the events in it are complex, respecting them as they are is a good starting point. The leaders who are risk-takers even when they are asymmetric, & own the consequences (especially negative outcomes) will be highly rewarded rather than interventionists or risk-transferors. 
The world is in awe when players and leaders take crucial decisions, deliver a win and make it look easy. While this is good for movies, if these qualities are not coded then how will companies & managers replicate the decisions (in the same context)? 
3. Codifier of Knowledge & Decision-Making Process:
Both successes and failures should be codified so that the successors can learn and act accordingly. Is it going to be easy with more technology or going to be tougher? With shorter tenure for employees, many of them gig workers, and CxO tenures even shorter, how is this knowledge coding going to work? Organically or inorganically?
Until positronic brains become mainstream and we can transfer knowledge instantaneously - we need to work on coding.
Also, we may mature in the future with robots shadowing executives, learning their habits, and helping other humans to replicate their behaviors. Will leaders be open to such shadowing and help companies keep the entry barriers high?
4. Architect of the Company’s Moat:
A competitive differentiator can be erased in a few hours with new technology. Example: GenAI or Quantum Computing. Assessing a company’s moat should be a daily routine just like analyzing the daily balance sheet. This is one of the key pillars of staying relevant to the customers and stakeholders.
Relevance includes not only the value provided but also assessing threats to the business & its users (their data etc.). Tech infusion into business should be for the people and centered around humans & earthlings.
5. Recharger of Energy:
Whatever the leaders used to assess every few years - their business model or USPs - they will be forced to do it more frequently. Everyone is going to get tired and deplete their mental, emotional, and physical energy. Finding answers will get more difficult with every progressive day. Where do you conserve or find your reserve energy?
Going beyond employees, leaders should look at all stakeholders (including users), show care and meet quarterly or annual stock market expectations!  Of course, numbers are hard realities and one can’t get away with alternate realities. Can they? Should they?
6. Champion of Thought Experiments & Embracing Alternate Realities:
According to the father of Quantum Computing, Deutsch, it will be crucial to embrace ‘Many Worlds Interpretation’ as proposed by Everett III (1957). Consequently, alternate realities too for every event. We will reach a situation in the future, where like in the movies, we could be discussing shaping the realities not just the narratives - solving a puzzle in a fine-grained matrix of realities (Taleb).
The ability to draw lessons from the extremes, including sci-fi, will shape the strategies.Example: Marketing in a Martian community. Customer experience for humanoids. Will the product work without electricity?
These out-there-somewhere thought experiments need to be embraced as well, for the purpose of keeping the business dynamic! 
7. The Driver of Purposefulness:
Many of today’s and even immediate future problems, might have an easy or instantaneous solution. Thanks to the evolution of technology. As the tech gets more accessible for everyday life, it is likely to increase automation and reduce even opportunities to use our grey cells as the systems could pre-emptively address them. It is like having a bored Sherlock Holmes (in billions).
Also, learning through ‘pathemata mathemata’ (guiding your learning through pain) will get difficult as most of the pain or resistance to learning could be eased out. Are humans ready for such a process or will they ever be?
To conclude, when emerging technologies are going to be democratized, every human/company will have access to it, so, retooling the core tech / proprietary tech will become imperative. This will open up more questions, like: will open source tech stay relevant? Will companies be willing to file a patent?
How should leaders think and act in the exponential tech era?

CFO Advisory Director in Finance (non-banking), 10,001+ employees
Leaders need to give staff people time to experiment/ innovate
Chief Technology Officer in Media, 2 - 10 employees
These leadership capabilities can help leaders effectively lead in an era of exponential technology and AI innovation : Technological Literacy, visionary Thinking, adaptability , decision making. 

Chief Data Officer in Media, 2 - 10 employees
I’d add technical strategy to some of the excellent ideas already raised. Leaders must be able to translate business problems into technology problems. They need to look at technology organizations as strategic partners that they can bring business challenges to. Leaders must have the background to articulate their business unit’s needs and define solution requirements.

For AI, that means functional and reliability requirements. Each technology wave delivers value in a unique way. Leaders must understand what use cases data and AI service better than an alternative. Businesses operate in a multi-technology environment, so technical strategy will become increasingly critical.
Lead Cloud Transformation Architect, 10,001+ employees
1) Curious Mind. Leaders need to answer the WHY question. Why adopt such technology? What business outcomes are you trying to achieve?

2) Cross-Functional Approach. Often tech initiatives are IT-led which is the number one reason for poor ROI and lack of business value. Tech initiatives should be a cross-functional activity that involves the wider business. IT is just an enabler.

3) Technological Awareness: Leaders need to possess a strong understanding of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and data analytics. They should be able to grasp the potential impact of these technologies on their industry, business models, and operational processes.

4) Tech Literate. Leaders need to stay one step ahead and continuously scan the horizon for new tech that will impact business. Impact on revenue growth, cost optimisation, or risk mitigation. 

5) Ethical. With great power, comes great responsibility. Be aware of biased introduced by tech, privacy concerns, etc.

6) Partnerships. Leaders will need to build strategic partnerships with other organisations that supplement their offerings.

7) Risk Mitigation. Any new tech introduces new risks. Leaders need to assess the new risks and develop mitigation strategies.

These are some of the fundamental leadership capabilities needed to survive the non-stop innovation train!


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