For almost three years, business leaders worldwide have exhibited incredible resiliency and persistence during the pandemic to come up with informed decisions and business solutions to sustain the global business economy. Faced with more complex business challenges, they have used advanced technology to achieve organizational goals and meet expectations of their stakeholders, including customers, employers, and investors.
For the past decades, most business leaders have depended on their intuition and business experience to manage the business’s operations. However, more business leaders are now embracing emerging technology like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and evidence-based decision models. Advanced technology has enabled business leaders to redesign their organizational structure to accommodate remote working and manage acute global supply-chain challenges.
In the mid-1930s, Professor Ordway Teed of Columbia University was among the early leadership theorists to provide an extensive list of leadership traits comprising of the physical and nervous energy, a sense of purpose and direction, enthusiasm, friendliness and affection, integrity, technical mastery, decisiveness, intelligence, teaching skill, and faith as decision-making models and the power to influence. It is essential to note that great leaders exhibit some of these important traits to create value in their organizations.
The trait approach is the oldest leadership perspective that focuses on great leaders’ personal characteristics (traits). It does not mean that it is not relevant today as most of our current leadership development models explore the trait approach of leadership as the leadership foundation.
One could also argue that renowned leaders create a grand vision to transcend an organization’s bottom line and transform the entire industry. Good examples of leaders with shared vision include CEOs Brian Chesky (Airbnb), Elon Musk (Tesla) and Tim Cook (Apple).
The research work done in the 1990s by leadership scholars such as James MacGregor Burns, Bernard Bass and Bruce Avolio highlights the importance of the transformational leadership model presenting the four factors of an idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. These four factors enable transformational leaders to build trust by being consistent, dependable, and persistent. They equally help leaders to motivate employees to transcend their interests for the sake of the larger community and be successful. With the intellectual stimulation, transformational leaders embrace advanced technology to attain sustainable competitive advantage.
Examples of transformational leaders in most industries include former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, and former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. We have learned from these transformational business leaders their capability to generate excitement and revitalize organizations to exceed the expectation of all stakeholders.
Several decades ago, business leaders relied on the Wall Street Journal and New York Financial Times for business information. With the information age, smartphones and tablets enable leaders to have synchronized news feeds from social media and other news outlets in real-time.
The increased global business leaders` adoption of emerging technologies, including Big Data, AI, and Machine Learning is changing the leadership landscape. It is essential to note that AI is changing the focus of the business to transform organizational structures and work expectations; academic researchers suggest that AI could have a $15.7 billion impact on the economy as early as 2030.
For business leaders to manage complex strategic alliances, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, they need to explore decision models based on Big Data, AI, and machine learning. These decision models tend to reduce human errors and the issues of biases. To explain this further, with the power of quantum computing and several data set points, AI could help business managers make better decisions. Most significantly, exploring AI-enabled predictive analytics could enable leaders to have better decision-making processes to provide more agile decisions grounded in data rather than intuition and gut feelings.
On the final note, leaders of the 21st century acknowledge that the global business environment is constantly changing at a highly fast-paced. Because of this, it is ideal for global business leaders to accept the use of emerging technologies like Big Data, AI, Predictive Analytics, and Cloud Computing to attain competitive advantage and sustainability in the global marketplace.
Dr. Kennedy K. Amofa is an assistant professor of Business Administration at Columbia College. He currently teaches both MBA and undergraduate courses in management and organizational development. For the previous 12 years, he worked as an IT systems analyst supporting IBM’s global manufacturing operations in Rochester, Minnesota. He is passionate about advanced research studies in emerging internet technologies and business analytics.