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5 Human Skills CEOs Need to Supercharge AI Growth Sustainably Artificial intelligence is only as intelligent as those using it, which is why we need human talent that can control it in the right, responsible way.

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Written by Christian Rebernik, co-CEO and co-founder, Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences

Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents a double-edged sword for the modern workforce and economy. While automation promises unprecedented boosts in workforce productivity and the potential to reshape industries, it simultaneously poses unique challenges for CEOs.

In Europe, almost two-thirds of CEOs (66%) struggle with developing and implementing an AI strategy. Now, in the wake of the EU AI Act, leaders are confronted with additional regulatory complexities that may impede innovation, raising further concerns surrounding compliance and acceptance.

Moreover, there are serious ethical factors to consider, with many growing increasingly concerned about AI's potential harms, biases and misinformation. As 60% of CEOs consider creating positive outcomes for society a primary role of their business, they – along with other business leaders – must hone critical human skills to leverage AI effectively and sustainably.

So, how can we unlock AI's potential for positive change? Here are five human skills that business leaders need to supercharge AI growth in a sustainable way.

1. Lifelong learning and adaptability.

To keep up with AI, CEOs must invest in ongoing upskilling initiatives, and work to instil continuous learning within cultures. However, leaders should look beyond upskilling staff on one model – as it will inevitably evolve or be overtaken. Instead, to optimise working processes and keep pace with new innovations and methodologies, CEOs need to pursue lifelong learning to maintain agility and sustained innovation – this is the way to maintain a competitive edge in the AI era.

Harnessing this skill requires a shift in perspective. Following the beginner's mindset philosophy – a concept that refers to approaching any situation with openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions – can be a great place to start. Much like a toddler would navigate the world, when a challenge or failure presents itself, stand up and try again. This mindset will help CEOs embrace new ideas, stay adaptable, forward-thinking, and pre-empt future changes to avoid being stunted.

2. Self-empowerment and self-leadership.

To leverage AI sustainably, self-empowerment and self-leadership are critical skills for CEOs. These enable individuals to steer organisations confidently through the intricacies of AI, via the development of a strong internal compass. To do so, it's crucial to cultivate personal values, ethics, and a clear sense of purpose to inform decision-making.

This can be achieved through personal development practices, such as engaging in reflective meditation, strategic planning sessions across all levels within an organisation, and ethics training. In practice, these methods can assist AI deployment in ways that enhance productivity and uphold organisations' values. Alignment ensures from the early stages of responsible AI adoption that it's not just technically efficient, but also culturally and ethically congruent with business goals and – most importantly – the values of your workforce, supporting both innovation and business integrity.

3. Conflict resolution and active listening.

Naturally, adopting new technologies, implementing new working processes, or simply changing the coffee machine can lead to conflict and teething issues within cultures. Impactful resolutions are achieved through active listening – the communication technique that involves being present and tuning in fully, acknowledging without judgement, and responding with thoughtful feedback – addressing concerns and resistance head on during AI implementation. This opens the door for a two-way conversation, fostering a collaborative working environment where employees feel heard and satisfied by the outcome.

Remember, the adoption of AI is an exciting prospect for digitally literate talent. However, other individuals may find adjustments daunting.

Picture this: a seasoned employee who excels at using traditional spreadsheet methods for financial reporting. With the introduction of a new AI-driven data analysis tool, traditional processes have been upended to speed up progress. However, at first, the interface is sleek yet complex, loaded with features the employee does not immediately understand. Despite initial training, the lack of intuitive guidance makes the tool seem more like a barrier than an aid, leading to the employee reverting to old spreadsheet methods. This not only slows down their work, but also gradually isolates them from digitally adept colleagues benefitting from the new system.

In such cases, active listening is incredibly valuable to understand practical hurdles faced by team members during AI adoption and identify areas that require additional support and training. Reaching this balance relies heavily on a CEO's emotional and social intelligence, indispensable for promoting an inclusive culture that embraces technological advancements while empowering individual learning styles.

4. Emotional intelligence.

Despite concerns AI will overtake human intelligence next year, there is an element it cannot replicate: emotional intelligence (EQ) – recognizing and regulating one's own emotions – which is vital for employee retention, performance, optimism and resiliency. For CEOs, having a high EQ is imperative for navigating the complex interpersonal dynamics within an organisation and understanding the human consequences of AI adoption.

Humans – who harbour unconscious biases – shape AI models. Therefore, emotional intelligence is essential for promoting ethical behaviours and policies needed for managing biases and ensuring the equitable deployment of AI. In practice, this would require the removal of bias from data collection and selection; however, there isn't an assured solution for the ethical training of AI models yet. In turn, the ongoing training of AI models hinges on the inclusion of diverse teams from a variety of backgrounds to enforce a comprehensive scrutiny of AI systems to identify potential biases. This will contribute to fostering trust in AI systems in the workforce, and as a force for good for overall societal wellbeing.

5. Social intelligence.

Lastly, social intelligence (SQ) – the ability to understand, influence the emotions of others in social interactions – is an indispensable skill for CEOs aiming to forge strong relationships within their organisations, vital for enhancing change management capabilities during AI integration. Prioritising SQ will improve operational efficiency and reinforce a collaborative forward-thinking environment. CEOs can actively develop social intelligence through innovative schemes like reverse mentoring, where less experienced employees impart unique insights to senior staff – effectively bridging the gaps between organisational levels and resulting in more inclusive workplace cultures.

As CEOs and other business leaders progress these initiatives, aligning them with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals is crucial. This alignment promotes equitable upskilling opportunities, ensuring all talent can use AI as a tool to enhance, rather than replace, their roles. Mindful integration of AI will be pivotal for both operational success and creating a positive societal impact.

Ultimately, with the increasing reliance on technology, CEOs are positioned to champion full and productive employment and purposeful work for all, aligned with SDG 8. By focusing on nurturing their human core – collective skills, empathy, and intelligence – C-suite leaders can lay the groundwork for long term, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth. This strategic vision will transform industries and empower communities, ensuring technological advancements benefit everyone.

This is our call to action: To lead with empathy, to innovate responsibly, and to build a future where technology amplifies human potential, creating a world where everyone can thrive.

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