March 01, 2023 by Dede Henley

A Future With A.I. Still Needs Human Leadership


Previously published on Forbes

You’ve probably been hearing about it, but just what is it? ChatGPT is a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) interface built on the GPT-3 large language model. It can produce text or written output that very much appears as if it were written by a person.

Your natural next question is, how will ChatGPT impact me? While ChatGPT may be able to draft lovely emails and pitches for you, it doesn’t replace leadership. In fact, human relationships, growth, engagement and connection will matter more than ever. And that means the job of leaders is not going away. 

As David Brooks puts it, “A.I. will give us fantastic tools that will help us outsource a lot of our current mental work. At the same time, AI will force us humans to double down on those talents and skills that only humans possess.” 

Brooks argues that what will really matter in the future of AI are distinctly human skills, like:

  • A distinct personal voice
  • A childlike talent for creativity
  • An unusual worldview
  • Empathy
  • Situational awareness

Humor me in riffing on the leadership version of David’s list as I draw from my experience working as an executive coach to thousands of leaders. 

A distinct personal voice

Some might call this your “brand,” the thing that makes you, you. I think of it as your essence. Consider what is unique and wonderful about you. Is it your solid intuition? Is it your kindness? Is it your outrageous take on most things? This is your voice, the special qualities that you bring and that would be missed if you didn’t. Cultivate your distinct leadership perspective. Keep honoring it, knowing that it matters. 

A childlike talent for creativity

Many are pointing out the lack of creativity in the AI voice. It lacks depth. Human beings are creative beings. Leadership necessitates creativity. As one of my clients said, “There is no rule book for leadership.” Every challenge, every difficulty, every hill to climb invites you to be more creative and to call forth the creativity of others.

An unusual worldview

The best leaders are able to see the world from multiple perspectives or worldviews. They can stand an idea on its head and see the possibility. Being open to new perspectives means that you can exceed what you think is possible. You are open to new ideas from all sources, whether they come from the front lines, customers, suppliers, or the board. Often, the most important perspectives and ideas come from the bottom or the middle of an organization. 


Leaders who engage with their teams with empathy will gain respect and loyalty. Empathy means that you can relate to the person across from you. You can put yourself into their world and make sense of it. This is the heart of a great leader. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to be willing to engage with another empathetically. 

Situational awareness

The most effective leaders are those who adapt their style to the situation unfolding before them. They ask themselves, what’s needed here? In some cases, it’s backing up and backing off — letting your team wrestle with important challenges without you jumping into rescue. In other situations, it’s becoming a partner and a pair of hands, rolling up your sleeves and staying late with the team to help meet an important deadline. Situational leaders flex to the task at hand. They don’t get boxed in to a one-size-fits-all kind of response. 

Yes, ChatGPT and artificial intelligence are here to stay. But don’t feel threatened. Delegate to AI the mundane tasks and parts of your job that don’t require distinctly human skills. That will free you up to stay fully engaged in the business of bringing your full human self to the role of leader. It will make all the difference.


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