Leeds Business School

Should artificial intelligence be used to inform leadership development?

In this blog post, Dr Julia Morgan, Head of the Leadership Centre at Leeds Business School, explores some of the ways that AI is likely to inform leadership development programmes in the future.

Robotic hand

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a rapidly evolving technology that is transforming many aspects of our lives. From healthcare to finance, retail and transportation, AI is being used to automate processes, improve efficiency, and enhance decision making.

As AI continues to grow and evolve, it is poised to revolutionise the way that leadership development programmes are designed, implemented, and evaluated.

The promise of AI - data, data and more data

One of the major ways that AI will impact leadership development programmes is by providing more personalised and targeted learning experiences. With AI powered algorithms, leadership development programmes will be able to analyse an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, their learning styles, and their career goals, which will inform programme design and delivery.

AI algorithms can also analyse data from a range of sources, including performance reviews, customer feedback and employee engagement surveys, to identify patterns and trends that may indicate areas where a leader could improve.

By using natural language processing (NLP) technology, AI can analyse the language used in performance reviews, emails, and other written communication to identify patterns in a leader’s behaviour. As NLP algorithms can identify patterns of language that indicate a leader is adept at communicating with their team or that they may need to work on their delegation skills.

AI can also deliver more immersive and engaging learning experiences, through technologies like virtual and augmented reality. As an example, leadership development programmes could use VR simulations to allow participants to practice real world leadership scenarios in a safe and controlled environment. Enabling participants to develop their skills and confidence in a realistic setting, without the risk of real-world consequences.

AI will also play a key role in evaluating the effectiveness of leadership development programmes. By using advanced analytic tools, programmes can measure the impact of their training on business outcomes, such as employee retention, productivity, and revenue growth.

But what about ethical issues – bias, privacy and transparency

The use of AI in leadership development raises several ethical issues that need to be considered carefully. Some of the key ethical issues include:

  • Bias: AI algorithms are only as good as the data they are trained on, and if that data contains biases, then the algorithms will learn and perpetuate those biases. This could lead to unfair treatment or discrimination against certain groups of people.
  • Privacy: The use of AI in leadership development may involve collecting and analysing sensitive personal information about individuals, such as their communication patterns, work performance, and behaviour. This raises concerns about privacy and data security.
  • Transparency: It can be difficult to understand how AI algorithms make decisions, which can make it challenging to identify biases or errors. This lack of transparency can lead to a loss of trust in the technology and in the leadership development process.
  • Accountability: Who is responsible for the decisions made by AI algorithms? Should it be the developers, or the organisation using the technology, or the algorithm itself? There needs to be clear accountability for the decisions made by AI algorithms to ensure they are fair and ethical.
  • Unintended consequences: The use of AI in leadership development could have unintended consequences that are difficult to predict. For example, it could lead to a reduction in the development of certain skills that are not easily quantifiable by AI algorithm’s such as emotional intelligence or creativity.

AI has the potential to revolutionise leadership development programmes by providing more objective and accurate assessments of a leader’s performance, providing personalized coaching and feedback, and identifying potential leaders within an organization.

As AI technology continues to evolve, it is likely that we will see an increasing number of organizations incorporating AI into their leadership development programmes to enhance the effectiveness of their leaders and improve organisational performance.  But we also need to be aware and learn to mitigate the significant ethical implications implicit to its adoption.

Accordingly, organisations must ensure that AI is used ethically, transparently, and responsibly and that the data used to train AI algorithms is diverse, representative, and free of bias.  As the primary goal of using AI in leadership development programmes must be to enhance the effectiveness of leaders while also upholding ethical principles and values. 

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