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Elevating Leadership and Bridging Digital Skills

03/27/2024 10:48 AM | Marla Halley (Administrator)

Embracing AI in Leadership

In November 2023, I presented to and spoke with a group of technologists on the topic of “Embracing AI in Leadership.” The mission was to open people’s eyes to the possibilities of enhancing their own growth potential in their leadership journey by utilizing Generative AI. This included real case studies, several Gen AI tools, and various prompting techniques. Where there were a few skeptics at the beginning of the presentation, in the end, they were converted into believers. Task completed? Well, I think this journey is and will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future.

My decision to delve into this topic was driven by multiple inspirations. First among them was witnessing the widening divide between the technologically empowered and the underserved. My journey from blue-collar sectors to the forefront of the tech industry has confirmed and validated the idea that there are boundless opportunities that technology can offer. Yet, it has also highlighted a stark reality: as technology progresses, the chasm deepens between those who continuously evolve with technology and those who remain disconnected. This disparity, especially with the advent of easily accessible Generative AI, is set to expand even more rapidly, distinguishing between the adopters of AI and those left behind.

Setting AI aside for the moment, Scott Klososky points out that we have an existing problem. Even amongst well-established organizations, there are digital skills gaps that incur massive hidden costs. I have witnessed this myself at multiple organizations over the past several years. For instance, many individuals remain reliant on their mapped network drives for accessing and managing shared content. Mapped network drives have been around for a very long time. At the risk of opening myself up to rebuke, I’ll go ahead and say it, this is old-school technology, pre-cloud, pre-OneDrive, and pre-modern-tech.

On one hand, some IT departments have invested heavily to ensure access to their mapped drives and shared content is seamless. On the other hand, many users experience frustration with the less-than-optimal method of working with their content, especially when on the move. What makes this worse is these same organizations have also invested in Microsoft 365 (M365), a comprehensive digital workplace. Yet 80% or more of users are still locked in their old-school processes that revolve around their mapped drives (these are my unofficial stats).

This scenario underscores a missed opportunity to leverage existing resources more effectively and highlights the pressing need to address the digital skills gap within the organization. As Scott points out, the organization is responsible for closing the digital skills gap or suffer the resulting cost of a lack of efficiency and effectiveness.

Get Your Digital House in Order

Switching back to the AI topic. If your organization already has a detrimental digital skills gap, you have some work to do as a technology leader. Embracing AI in Leadership is based on the idea that, conceptually, you can use generative AI to improve your leadership capabilities, including strategic thinking, future-scenario simulations, enhanced research capabilities, and potentially help you devise a strategy and plan for closing the digital skills gap in your organization. I took a few minutes working with ChatGPT to generate the following high-level strategy as a good starting point to consider.

Strategy Component

Action Items

Expected Outcomes

Baseline Digital Skills Assessment

- Assess to identify skills gaps.
- Benchmark against industry.

- Clear understanding of skills gaps.
- Identified improvement areas.

Customized Learning Pathways

- Develop role-specific pathways.
- Utilize AI for personalized learning.

- Role-relevant skills improvement.
- Higher engagement.

Leverage Existing Technologies

- Train with Microsoft 365.
- Workshops for new tech adoption.

- Improved tool utilization.
- Reduced outdated tech reliance.

Promote a Culture of Continuous Learning

- Reward learning achievements.
- Foster knowledge sharing and mentoring.

- Learning as a core value.
- Supportive learning environment.

Generative AI in Leadership Development

- Integrate AI for planning and simulations.
- AI training for leaders.

- Enhanced leadership skills.
- Better planning capabilities.

Continuous Feedback and Adaptation

- Feedback loops for learning effectiveness.
- Update materials based on feedback.

- Agile adaptation to tech changes.
- Skills aligned with goals.

Beyond the Skills Gap: Paving the Way for AI and Digital Innovation

This strategy lays the foundation for AI adoption and other technological advancements, while addressing the digital skills gap is crucial, it’s just one aspect. Organizations are embarking on extensive digital transformation, adopting advanced ERP systems, shifting to cloud-based development, enhancing cybersecurity, and establishing robust disaster recovery plans. Amidst these transformations, businesses strive to excel, balancing multiple initiatives seamlessly in their dynamic operations.

As a technology leader, prioritize delivering high-quality digital transformations, using AI judiciously to augment your leadership and ensure initiatives remain focused and effective, without diluting quality or mission clarity. At some point, your organization might consider tackling AI head-on. For example, evaluating viable use cases, considering deploying your own Large Language Model (LLM) internally, training or fine-tuning your models using your own proprietary data, and then figuring out how to production-ize AI solutions. As you prepare for this new initiative, find the right partner and hire or train the right leaders who can devote 100% of their effort to AI. You will need leadership, experience, and a team to tackle this new space.

In Conclusion

As we explore “Embracing AI in Leadership” and tackle the digital skills gap alongside our digital transformation efforts, the journey is both challenging and filled with opportunities. Fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability is key to not just bridging the digital divide but thriving in the era of rapid technological advancement. Our ongoing endeavor is to leverage technology to enhance our leadership, improve operations, and drive organizational growth in a world where technology continuously reshapes our landscape.

Bio: Kalen Howell has a master's degree in computer science from Franklin University and an MBA from the University of Dayton and has worked in the software development industry for over 20 years. Today, as CIO, Kalen leads a technology team, IT OPS, and Software Development, with huge digital initiatives rolling out to organizations across the US, Canada, and Mexico.

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