New research with 800 business leaders across seven European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, UK) and the United States shows how they personally plan to use AI, and their thoughts on how successful leadership changes as businesses use more AI.
Investing in people
One of the major findings of the study shows that as AI becomes more prevalent in a company, motivating and investing in employees became the top time investment priority for leaders. These results suggest that leaders recognise the impact that uniquely human qualities have on the success of a company.
Creative problem-solving, empathy, building trust and personality are just some of the human factors that are invaluable to the success of a business – especially one that is in the process of change and transformation.
Michel van der Bel, President, Microsoft EMEA believes that “As AI helps leaders tackle operational tasks more effectively, they can better shift their focus on empowering their people. This means trusting people to approach challenges in their own way and ensuring they are equipped to be at their best. In short, leaders can more effectively shift from being managers to mobilisers.” In this way, AI can be seen as a strategic boardroom tool, allowing leaders to reinvest more time in their people.
I actually think AI will make good leaders less busy and even more human.
We have seen that AI can help leaders invest time into the growth of their employees, but it is also important to note how leaders can actively use AI to augment their own skills.
The results show that nearly half of successful leaders – namely, those at companies that have seen double-digit growth – are embracing AI to help with direction-setting, such as creating a vision or setting a strategy. In comparison, the results show only around 36% of low-growth leaders believe the same.
The study also shows that the majority of successful leaders from high-growth companies are looking to change their skill emphasis in the age of AI, allowing them to focus on more core leadership objectives, such as strategy, goals, and new market opportunities – all things that can happen only through human ingenuity. This suggests that leaders recognise that the way in which they approach their jobs will change, and that they welcome support in refining their leadership skills.
The more you know, the higher your sense of urgency is.
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The race is on
The survey results show that high-growth companies are not only more than twice as likely to actively use AI compared to lower growth companies, but they also have bigger plans in a much shorter time frame. Of the double-digit growth companies surveyed, while almost all (94%) intend to use in AI for decision making within the next three years, more than half plan to do so over the next 12 months. In comparison, the majority of low-growth companies are only looking to invest in decision-making AI in the next three to five years.
Crucially, it’s not too late for those companies and leaders who are further behind in their AI journeys to start now, to increase their chances of remaining competitive.
Start small, learn fast and scale
The research findings have shown that AI is successfully utilised by leaders to invest more time in humans, while helping them create and execute new strategies. In addition, we have seen how leaders value AI’s ability to help them grow their own skills.
Evidence showing that the fastest-growing companies have invested – and will continue to invest – in AI also highlights the importance of ensuring that business, inspired by their leadership, progress on their AI journey sooner, rather than later, before they run the risk of losing their competitive edge to more progressive companies.
Start small, but start with intention. This will help teams build trust, learn from feedback and build confidence. In a nutshell, this is what will help get your AI journey off with a strong start. Progress today, and reap the benefits for both yourself as a leader, and your company as a whole, tomorrow.
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Key research findings
Note: High growth companies are companies that expect relative organic revenue growth in the double digits.
Leaders of high-growth companies feel a sense of urgency to use more AI to not only drive efficiencies, but growth too:
- 93% of high-growth companies intend to invest in decision-making AI in 1-3 years, 53% of which expect to do so in the next 12 months, as compared to 33% of lower growth companies
- 64% of lower-growth companies intend to invest in decision-making AI in 3-5 years
As AI becomes more widely used, leaders will invest more time in:
- Motivating and inspiring employees
- Identifying new market opportunities
- Setting the right goals
Leaders would like support to change their skill emphasis so that they’re better prepared for the age of AI
- 76% of leaders from high-growth companies would like support, whereas 67% of lower-growth leaders would like support
Decision makers believe AI will have a positive impact on leadership
- Among high growth leaders, 66% say that AI will have a positive impact on leadership, with 8% saying there has already been a positive impact
- 64% of lower growth company leaders expect the same, with 3% saying AI has already had a positive impact
Top three areas where high-growth companies expect to use more AI in the coming year:
- Decision-making: 53% (33% for lower growth)
- Optimizing processes: 43% (34% for lower growth)
- Developing new products and services: 28% (27% for lower growth)
Key challenges that leaders see, related to AI:
- Adapting rapidly to new and changing market environments (47%)
- Promoting a culture for humans to thrive off AI (41%)
- Developing ideas for how AI can help add value to customer solutions (40%)