Thursday 17 February 2022

Wise Leadership in the Age of AI by Gihan Perera

This is a guest post by my friend, colleague and futurist Ghan Perera.

Are the robots coming for your job? Yes and no.

Automation and AI are rapidly spreading through every industry and every workplace. They accelerated during COVID-19, because the need for limiting physical contact forced organisations to find more digital solutions (According to McKinsey, 67% of companies sped up their use of automation and AI due to COVID-19). This trend will continue to grow and expand, even after the pandemic.

Of course, this doesn’t mean everything will be automated (and not everything should). We will still value emotional experiences, the personal touch, and human ingenuity. But, even with those personal experiences, there’s a big push to automating everything that creates friction or gets in the way.

For example, we might need to meet (in person or online) to make an important decision. The real value comes from the conversation in the meeting, and that’s where humans excel. But all the other tasks – scheduling the meeting, sending reminders, recording, transcribing, translating, filing and indexing, and distributing actions – can be done through automation and AI.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 ‘Future of Jobs Report’, by 2025, 85 million jobs will be displaced by robotics and automation. But the same report predicts they will also create 97 million new jobs. The catch is they’re not the same jobs!

If you’re a leader, you have an added role as you navigate your team and organisation through this fast-changing world: to help your people adapt, integrate, and embrace the changes AI will bring.

This role requires empathy, care, sensitivity, and yes – more than a smattering of wisdom.

So how do you apply wise leadership in the age of AI?

Let’s start by looking at how you build wisdom. It happens in four stages:

1. You start by learning a new skill.

2. Through many hours of experience through deliberate practice, you develop mastery in that skill.

3. Then, by applying your mastery in different contexts, you learn to exercise good judgement.

4. All this experience means you acquire a higher perspective, which leads to wisdom.

Obviously, different people are at different stages, and that can even vary within different roles in their job. If they are at any of the first three stages – skill, mastery, or judgement – you can help them understand the impact of AI and automation on their role.

Skill: AI will replace many skills and some jobs.

There’s no doubt some people will lose their jobs because computers and robots will have the same – or better – skills than humans. In the past, this was obvious for manual labour and blue-collar jobs, but it’s increasingly true for higher-level roles as well.

 As a wise leader, you will have to help people move out of these jobs. This won’t be an easy task, but if you know it’s likely to happen, act decisively, so your people have as much time as possible to adapt. The worst thing you can do is delay the inevitable.

Mastery: AI will accelerate the experience curve.

If mastery requires deliberate practice, AI can help by accelerating the experience curve. For example, it can:

  • provide customised learning paths,
  • assist coaching and mentoring,
  • help people design individual career paths, and
  • help HR and L&D professionals manage your talent requirements.

As a wise leader, identify ways to involve AI in this kind of learning and development for your people. Most people know they will need more learning to adapt to a changing world, and this is an opportunity for you to introduce AI in a positive, non-confrontational way.

Judgement: AI can help people make judgement calls.

Much of the negative media around AI has involved it making seemingly arbitrary judgement calls: turning down qualified candidates for senior roles, determining who qualifies for a home loan, showing racial bias in police arrests, and so on.

We’re not yet at the point where we should trust AI to make those judgement calls, but it can help us make those judgement calls. For example, it can analyse large volumes of data quickly, provide relevant information for making informed decisions, and monitor behaviour to determine the results of actions.

 As a wise leader, investigate and integrate the power of AI and automation to help your people. This is all about humans and machines being better together than either could be alone. You have probably always done this with technology, but you might not realise just how powerful and affordable AI technology has become.

Will you be a wise leader in the age of AI?

According to research by MIT Sloan Management Review, 85% of leaders believe AI can help them gain a competitive advantage. And Gartner predicts the greatest source of competitive advantage for 30% of organisations will come from leveraging AI and related technologies.

 But these raw numbers don’t tell the full story. The real story is not about computers; it’s about people. We have never needed wise leadership as much as we need it now. Will you be one of those wise leaders? 

Monday 14 February 2022

Our best and brightest future has much to do with human being centred workplaces


I'm not certain that the workplace has ever truly been human being centred. What is growing in certainty for me is that our best and brightest future has much to do with human being centred workplaces.

Here's a 3 minutes and 22 seconds video where I share what I feel are the six essential components:

I expand on each below:


For me differencemaking is a good way to describe our reason for being. 

What difference does your life and work make in the lives of other people? 

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (often referred to as DEIB) are four ways to ensure that who we are and what we do matters.

Differencemaking is our why, intent, reason for being. 

In my case I help business leaders to co-create human being centred workplaces because doing so helps to solve the problem that the number of employees bringing their best to their work are still in the minority.

How could you be and do more as a differencemaker?

Response Ability

Response Ability is your ability and willingness to make the wisest choices for your own and other people's well-being in the moment, as well as in the short and long term. 

I've been writing about the nine future ready skills of Response Ability in my weekly newsletter on LinkedIn. The nine are Heartful Disposition, Behaving in alignment with your essence, Being in service to others, Possibility focused,  Open to input, Doing work that is meaningful for you and highly valuable for others, Farsight, Connection and Belonging, Feeling valued. You can access the articles here.


Do you feel appreciated in your workplace? In your personal life? 

Who are you and what do you do that enables other people to feel appreciated?

In most workplaces there’s a lack of appreciation going on despite a known fact best described by the eminent psychologist William James who said:

"The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

One action you can take right now that enacts this deepest principle

Reflect on the people closest to you at home, at work, and the other places you go.

Write down these people’s names and one way you could show genuine appreciation to them in the next fortnight without any cost except that of your time and energy.

Go show appreciation without attachment to getting back.

Make this ritual part of your everyday life.

Below is part of a conversation I had with a client who had temporarily lost her bearings regarding her core appreciation of herself, after a heated discussion with her boss.

I asked her “Outside of the workplace where do you feel most appreciated?”
Straight away she replied “My eldest son is brilliant at showing appreciation to me, and often it’s just little things that surprise and delight me.”

“What little things could you do to surprise and delight your boss?" I asked.

What followed was a candid and convivial conversation that revealed my client had rarely, if ever, shown appreciation to her boss. I explained to my client that often we don’t receive what we most need ourselves unless we’re giving it to others without attachment to getting back. I also said “It’s OK to ask for help!”

Values Behaviours

In the very best teams and organisations values are not just words they are agreed behaviours.

Values must be agreed behaviours otherwise they are just meaningless words.

Over the course of a three year project with one client, I helped them through collaboration with one another, to turn values (single words) into virtues ("behaviours showing high moral standards").

In the case of this client eighteen behaviours were the result of significant work. We subsequently learned that eighteen is too many and that three to five is good practice.

As behaviours became the focus, or as one of the leaders involved described it "As soon as living our values became our intention, and the key focus of our attention, performance dramatically improved."

I was astounded by the performance improvement and observed two other deep factors at play. 

1) The more values were lived, the more people felt valued, and the greater value they exchanged and delivered to other people. 

2) I also learned that sustaining a high level of people feeling valued, living values, and exchanging and delivering value, depended greatly on leadership (people), management (process), and culture (who we are and how we behave around here).

Life/work harmony

I believe life/work balance is nonsense. Life/work harmony is possible. 

The word balance for me implies equal. I prefer the word harmony, therefore life/work harmony.

My personal and business life are not equal or in balance and are never likely to be.

They are in harmony with one another, that is, they work together like a symphony, two sides of the same coin

For me there are eleven principles for ensuring life/work harmony. You can read about them here.

Become the wise leader you want to be.

Friday 11 February 2022

Friday 4 February 2022

Leader is not a word or a concept that replaces manager

Leader is not a word or a concept that replaces manager. Yet this seems to me to be what has happened during the pandemic. Command and control are back as a force in politics and in workplaces. Such behaviour never ends well. The hallmarks are bullying, authoritarianism, and ideology. An example is mandating vaccines. This is old style trying to control people management. It always creates us and them. Real leadership on the other hand would inspire the majority to have the vaccines.

In 1990 I defined leadership as "the art of inspiring people to bring everything we are to everything we do." I defined management as "the process of making it simple for people to bring everything we are to everything we do."

Leadership is about people. Management is about process. The idea of people management was a dumb one right from the start.

The great thinker Peter Drucker, the so called father of management, was on to this. In his 1954 book 'The Practice of Management' he said “One does not manage people—the task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of each individual.”

Largely ignored in her day because she was a women my hero is Mary Parker Follett who in 1924 wrote:

“Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led.

The most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders.”

Are you leading people and managing process? If so thank you. You are needed more than ever.