Adaptive Leadership: Understanding AI’s Impact on Business

When Mount Vesuvius erupted, hundreds of ancient scrolls were buried in the ash. When they were discovered in 1752, they remained largely indecipherable—until this year, when artificial intelligence unlocked their long-held secrets 

Today, business leaders in all industries can leverage that same power by using AI to solve challenges that were previously considered unsolvable. To effectively do this, however, leaders must skillfully navigate and adapt to critical aspects of this evolving technology.  

The New Workforce 

Despite initial concerns, AI has not displaced wide sections of the workforce, with many experts now predicting that it is more likely change the way people work, rather than putting them out of work.  

Andrew Bailey, an economic historian and Bank of England Governor, disputed the notion of mass job losses due to AI saying, “Economies adapt, jobs adapt, and we learn to work with it.”  

LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky says that AI is “an opportunity to reinvent how we do things” by suggesting that AI is not a replacement for workers, but a collaborator that can improve their job performance. Although AI is well-known for automating highly repetitive processes—including mundane tasks associated with accounts receivable and collections within revenue cycle management, for example—AI solutions are not limited to those areas.  

Generative AI can and will automate some of the tasks of knowledge workers, allowing them to optimize their time by implementing technology to strategically edit or use what AI creates, rather than creating the initial work product themselves. For example, CRM software embedded with generative AI tools can quickly identify engaging topics for a salesperson to discuss with their clients, enabling them to maximize their time spent preparing and strategizing on how to close the sale. 

Despite, however, all of the positives AI is bringing to the workforce, leaders today have some important conversations that need to be had. First, it is essential to directly address the lingering notion that AI is a replacement for employees. A well-developed and expertly implemented communication plan will help by dispelling use cases for AI within a particular organization while also sharing where workers can expect to see it introduced. Second, leaders need to encourage and develop workers’ AI proficiency and technological literacy to help them succeed in this new environment through continued education and training opportunities. While these solutions may not address every worker’s concern or pain point, it does establish a foundation of trust and communication, a critical aspect in navigating the growing topic of AI. 

An Uncertain Regulatory Horizon 

Congress took serious note of AI in 2023, most notably the risks associated with the technology and the need to regulate it. Unlike the dawn of social media, executives from some of the biggest players in the AI space have been willing participants in Congressional hearings and some of the loudest voices calling for government regulation. 

During his testimony in May 2023, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said his company “believes that regulation of AI is essential, and we’re eager to help policymakers as they determine how to facilitate regulation that balances incentivizing safety while ensuring that people are able to access the technology’s benefits.”    

At a hearing in September 2023, Microsoft President Brad Smith praised the Bipartisan Framework for U.S. AI Act, that proposes an AI licensing regime and independent oversight body, among other things. He said it reflected “the urgency and speed needed to address this fast-moving technology, and it combines strong protection for the public with support for ongoing technology innovation.”  

A wide array of AI developers, executives and scientists participated in nine Bipartisan Senate Forums on AI during the second half of 2023 covering the intersection of AI and national security. And in October 2023, President Biden announced an Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, which outlined new standards in AI safety and security, privacy protection, workforce support and more.  

Executives of companies involved with developing AI solutions and leaders that rely on AI-embedded software to power their businesses should closely monitor the movement of AI regulations in the coming months. Engaging in ongoing discussions around AI’s application in the workforce is an opportunity to influence the future of AI and the regulatory frameworks that will govern it.   

Legal Ramifications of AI 

After OpenAI launched ChatGPT, lawsuits followed. Plaintiffs include comedian Sarah Silverman; the Authors Guild, a leading trade group for writers; and The New York Times, among others. The lawsuits claimed that OpenAI violated the plaintiffs’ copyrights while training ChatGPT to answer user inquiries. AI art generators Stability AI, Midjourney and DeviantArt have also been sued by artists with similar copyright infringement arguments.  

While these lawsuits shouldn’t discourage companies from getting involved with AI, they do serve as an important reminder in recognizing the potential legal risks of doing so. This proactive approach helps mitigate identified risks and prepares for potential legal actions that may arise from employees, customers or others whose work is linked to AI technology.   

The Importance of a Comprehensive AI Policy 

As more use cases for AI emerge and new AI-embedded tools launch, adaptive leaders are quickly recognizing the importance of making deliberate decisions regarding the development and use of AI technologies within their organizations. This includes creating a comprehensive AI policy that entails: 

  • Identified business functions suitable for AI implementation, and documenting areas where it is not. 
  • Positive and negative applications of AI. 
  • Clear objectives around the integration of AI into certain functions or circumstances. 
  • Anticipating potential ethical and legal considerations associated with AI use. 
  • A robust communication plan to convey the use of AI to customers, employees and key stakeholders. 

This policy should be reviewed annually, at a minimum, or sooner if substantial changes or enterprise-wide initiatives necessitate revisiting the existing policy.  

Leaders Need to Adapt to AI Now 

The solution to many of today’s most challenging issues rests with AI. Embracing AI is no longer an advantage, it’s a necessity. Leaders and organizations that fail to integrate this technology risk falling behind competitors in their industry that are already leveraging its power to tackle complex challenges and identify new opportunities. 

As much as businesses need AI, AI requires adaptive leadership to manage and direct it properly. This is best spear-headed by C-suite executives and their executive leadership teams who possess high levels of emotional intelligence, strong ethics, a commitment to good corporate governance and excellent communication skills. When combined, AI in the hands of adaptive leaders can make the previously impossible possible and help take an organization to the next level.