AI, Management, and Leadership

Flexible, agile, interconnected work generates new challenges for the coordination, leadership, and management of workforces, teams, and processes. How will leadership and management activities evolve in the age of AI, industry 4.0, and app-based management systems?

Collage: AI in leadership and management
© iStock/AleksandarGeorgiev

ICTs and AI – their prevalence and application

Leaders and managers make great use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) - a tendency that has grown stronger due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of hybrid modes of working. Other technologies, such as digital services (smart search engines, navigation systems, internet platforms) and the networking of devices, objects, installations, and buildings, are currently being used by large numbers of leaders as well. In contrast, neither virtual/augmented reality nor artificial intelligence (AI) have been widely used in leadership and management to date. However, many businesses are planning to deploy AI more extensively in the future. “Small-scale” forms of AI are already being drawn on to search, filter, and select data as a basis for decision-making. Shift and assignment planning systems, target management instruments, communication tools such as chatbots, competence management systems, recruitment support functions, and applications for the assessment and supervision of employees are now becoming more prevalent too.

Significance for leadership roles

AI applications therefore suppot leadership activities, help leaders and managers optimise the achievement of organisational targets. AI is expanding and facilitating access to data, enable faster communication options , and support networking. This opens up opportunities to deal with the high complexity of leadership roles. Easing the burden of routine tasks can create more space for the employee-oriented leadership that becomes ever more important with agile, networked working. At the same time there are also risks associated with the deployment of AI in these contexts. For example, demotivation, loss of control, overload, falling levels of trust, the neglect of qualitative aspects, if processes are standardised, and a decline in the attractiveness of leadership roles are constitute risks in such environments.

Unresolved questions and the need for good work design

There are plenty of challenges in terms of the research into and deployment of AI in leadership and management. A few examples may illustrate them:

  • Will AI only replace / support routine activities?
  • Will AI also support or even replace social interactions between leaders and followers?
  • Can and should AI take decisions? -What impact would this have on the quality of relationships within teams?
  • What new requirements concerning the acquisition of knowledge and continuing professional development will have to be met not just by leaders, but also by their followers?

Even though AI has not yet become ubiquitous in management and leadership, it has started to play a role.. Given the circumstances, it is of critical significance to weigh up the opportunities and risks and carefully design leaders and managers’ work activities. In particular, the transformation processes that take place within organisations and teams, if AI is introduced have to be planned, prepared, and designed thoroughly. With its interdisciplinary research, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) is enabling the parties responsible to understand and shape the consequences AI will have for the world of work.

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