The Evolving Landscape of AI and its Profound Impact on Leadership

Technology and InnovationTechnologyArtificial IntelligenceTechnology, Data, and Digital Officers
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Constantine Alexandrakis
November 10, 2023
3 min read
Technology and InnovationTechnologyArtificial IntelligenceTechnology, Data, and Digital Officers
Executive summary
Leaders quick to maximize AI's potential gain advantage. AI is a business issue and leadership imperative.


The rapid and meteoric rise of artificial intelligence is understandably generating both optimism and fear in the business world.

But this much is clear: leaders who are quick to maximize AI’s vast potential will gain a huge advantage over those who aren't.

Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) has always been a tech-forward consultancy. Data and analytics are an essential part of how we operate as a firm and how we discover future-ready leaders for our clients.

For years, technology companies have turned to us when they need senior leaders with significant AI expertise.

What we’re seeing now is companies outside the tech world—in financial services, consumer sectors, manufacturing industries, professional services, and more—also rushing to find AI-savvy leaders.

AI is no longer a tech issue. It is a business issue and a leadership imperative that is drawing interest from virtually every industry sector across the world.

I had the pleasure of exploring what the arrival of AI means for business and leadership with two prominent experts during a recent RRA webinar, “The Rise of AI—Implications for Leadership.”

My colleague and RRA’s global AI practice co-leader Fawad Bajwa was clear from the outset that AI’s disruptive impact differs from previous technology revolutions because of the outsized benefits it delivers.

When applied appropriately, AI can solve complex challenges, anticipate problems, and identify valuable trends and commercial opportunities far faster (and often more effectively) than any human brain.

Unlocking this potential will require a complete rethink of traditional leadership skills—and what it takes to lead.

As Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychologist, author, entrepreneur, and widely recognized expert on AI and leadership, said during our session, “Expertise is not what it used to be.”

“It’s now less about knowing the answers to a lot of questions, and more about asking the right questions and knowing what to do with the insights you get from AI and actually making smart decisions.”

As AI evolves, bold leadership will only become more important. It might seem counterintuitive, but adopting a human-centered approach to leadership is one of the absolute must-haves in an AI world.

Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic made a compelling case during our discussion that as AI decreases the value of stored human knowledge and expertise, it increases “the importance of soft skills—things like emotional intelligence, and the ability to create psychological safety to connect with others on a human level.”
At RRA, we have long believed that leadership is not defined solely by a leader’s IQ.

Effective leaders also need a desire to learn and listen from others, and the emotional intelligence to manage and motivate others. They are able to maintain employee morale and nurture an ethical, mission-driven, motivating culture, even throughout the most disruptive changes.

The shift toward emotional intelligence was already well underway. When we worked with the Harvard Business School and Imperial College London to analyze 5,000 job descriptions for C-suite roles over the last 20 years, we found that mentions of strong social skills increased by almost 30%. (Incidentally, we harnessed machine learning tools for this research.)

For all the inherent challenges that AI will undoubtedly bring, we are fortunate to be living and working at the dawn of this revolution.
Yes, AI will narrow the expertise gap by expanding access to insights and knowledge. But established leaders will still maintain their advantage if they proactively adopt AI to augment their experience, while also doubling down on honing their soft skills. Accepting this reality, rather than fearing it, will be the key to unlocking the vast potential of AI.

For leaders today, there are only two options: embrace AI or fall behind. In any case, there is no turning back.