The Future of Leadership: How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Leadership will redefine management – Research Scope for Researchers in AI and Leadership 2019-2020

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The Future of Leadership: How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Leadership will redefine management – Research Scope for Researchers in AI and Leadership 2019-2020

September 01, 2019


In brief

  • This particular article would delve into the literature pertaining to the kind of influence that technology wields on the theory of leadership over the years and the manner in which it has moulded leadership
  • Highlight how a transition to artificial leadership (driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) would transform the landscape.

The present-day technology is undergoing a second machine age that revolves largely around computers and the technological advances that it brings in. Communication is enhanced with the help of computers and the internet and renders it relatively easy to bring people, knowledge and skills together. In tandem with the influx of innovative technologies, there is also an increment in the pace of work within organizations and the process of innovation is also gaining speed. Akin to the way time was required to refine the steam engine technology, this second machine age is also undergoing a process of continuous development in tandem with the emergence of smarter computers. As of now, it is a fact that machines are in a position to take up tasks that are intellectually demanding and thus has substituted several tasks traditionally executed by humans.

This is similar to how muscle power was substituted by steam power during the first machine age. states that as organizations start to depend more on technology, the current workplace emerges to be more team-based and collaborative, wherein much value is accorded to social and cognitive skills. In view of these factors, it becomes necessary to comprehend how leadership within the workplace is gradually transitioning from the classical leadership ontology to more modern ones with AI as the core.

Leadership Approaches

According to one approach to leadership is the shared leadership approach wherein the responsibility is equally shared by members within a team and in scenarios where leadership cannot be segregated from the social setting. Another approach has been presented by which is the DAC concept that is appropriate for contemporary leadership. As per the DAC concept, the process of leadership comprises of direction, alignment and commitment (DAC) with regards to individuals. Instead of adjustments being made by followers to match their leaders, leadership is on the whole perceived as a procedure of mutual adjustment and combined achievement. The relational leadership theory has been elucidated by, wherein leadership is defined as a procedure of social influence, which is constructed mutually and generates alteration and coordination. As per this approach, leadership emerges as a process of structuring and is developed on the basis of vibrant relationships within the workplace.

“Agile Type of Leadership – In an age of an AI, the leadership research should focus on humility, adaptability, vision and constant engagement rather than short-term task focus, authority, decisiveness and deep domain expertise”.

AI and Leadership

According to a leadership position based on AI in future would most probably include a new follower, the AI machine. However, as of now, machines could prove to be non-functional in the absence of human leaders. With the introduction of this new position, an AI leader would be involved in procedures that concentrate on leading the individuals who programme the AI machine and at the same time affecting decisions that are arrived at by AI machines after programming. In such a scenario, standards of communication would be established for the machine as well as human members. In contrast to current leadership styles, AI leadership would need modifications to existing styles that are being used for humans.

AI Approach to Leadership

Conventional research within the realm of leadership has indicated that in order to lead humans, there is a need for behaviours such as charismatic influences and developing strong relationships is very much significant. Machines that are based on AI are yet to achieve emotional intelligence. Therefore, AI leadership would need to take a step back to reassess and make adjustments from the existing influences that are utilized for leading humans. As per a very early theory of leadership, which was the managerial grid, offered leaders with a model to test with a mixture of concern for the structure and concern for the people. At a time when machines would need to be led, there is a possibility to perceive two diverse styles of leadership is emphasized. These would relate to authoritative and team styles. Till such time that there are any developments in emotional intelligence for machines a leadership style pertaining to a deep concern for structure and deep concern for people could possibly be utilized for programmers. In addition, during the initial stages, machine intelligence will engage the competing expectations for low cost versus software and hardware intricacy that might warrant the need for an AI leadership that is of an authoritative style .

Future Research Scope for Researchers in AI and Leadership 2019-2020

Though the domain of AI leadership is interesting and given the rapid technological advancements that are occurring, it might very much be a reality that AI leaders will emerge in future. However, not much has been explored on this topic which presents an inherent gap in the body of research especially for research scholars / students pursuing their PHD dissertation in the UK / USA Universities.

  • the leadership skills required to success in the age of AI or
  • expectations do leaders have on AI that will in turn impact the leadership role in the future workplace,
  • the impact of AI on business leadership and modern workforce,
  • How AI will supplant ‘hard elements’ (responsible for cognitive processing) of leaderships and emphasis on the “soft” (e.g. the personality, traits, attitude, and behaviour) elements of leadership. In an age of an AI, the leadership research should focus on humility, adaptability, vision and constant engagement rather than short-term task focus, authority, decisiveness and deep domain expertise.
  • Further research could also explore the long-term effect and implications on leadership when AI is sufficiently implemented.
  • Whether decision made by AI can have ethical implications in the future workplace
  • AI research should also be conducted among leaders from different age group (younger generation versus the older generation) and backgrounds

  1. Tapscott. D, (2014), “The Digital Economy Anniversary Edition: Rethinking Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence”, McGraw-Hill Education; 2 edition, ISBN-13: 978-0071835558.
  2. W.H. Drath et al., (2008), “Direction, alignment, commitment: Toward a more integrative ontology of leadership”, The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 19, pp. 635–653.
  3. David J. Deming, (2017), “The Growing Importance Of Social Skills In The Labor Market”.
  4. F.J. Yammarino et al, (2012), “Collectivistic Leadership Approaches: Putting the ‘‘we’’ in Leadership Science and Practice”, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 5, 382–402.
  5. Farazmand. A (ed.), (2016), “Relational Leadership Theory”, Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance
  6. Smith, A. M., & Green, M., (2018), “Artificial Intelligence and the role Of Leadership”, Journal Of Leadership Studies.
  7. Sun Z., (2018), “Artificial Leadership: An Artificial Intelligence Approach”, Artificial Leadership. PNG UoT BAIS, Vol. 3, Issue 12, pp. 1-7.
  8. Sun. Z., “A Framework for Developing Management Intelligent Systems”, International Journal of Systems and Service-Oriented Engineering, Vol. 6, Issue 1, pp. 37 – 53.
  9. Brynjolfsson. E , (2016), “The Second Machine Age – Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies”, W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition, ISBN-13: 978-0393350647.

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