Blog 3 min read 25 January 2023

Why Leaders’ Greatest Rival Might Be Their Own Avatar

It’s the leadership race most people don’t want to talk about.

Could a robot do your job? Could it do it better? Faster? Could it do it in a better mood? 

When world leaders gathered in Davos, in January for the World Economic Forum, the public launch of the artificially intelligent chatbot ChatGPT was on everyone’s lips. Last year, it grabbed headlines worldwide for its eerily accurate replication of human writing.

There is now at least a theoretical possibility that one day a Davos-like event could take place without anyone really being there – or actually saying anything.  

Keynote speeches and social media posts could be written by chatbots. Avatars could deliver speeches in virtual reality to audiences hosted in the metaverse. Photos with other leaders could be deep faked. A sharply dressed chatbot could stand in for an interview on Bloomberg TV with a stunning alpine backdrop.  

It’s true that in Silicon Valley, the talk often runs some distance ahead of the tech. But while Meta may only just have developed the technology to give its avatars legs, the technology to make Deepfake Davos a reality is very nearly there. Microsoft has just ploughed $10 billion into ChatGPT’s developer, Open AI. And deepfakes have already starred in their own sitcom Deep Fake Neighbour Wars.  The race for a robo-boss has surely already started.

And these advances should give leaders pause.

What is it that really makes a human leader worth following? 

Should leaders fear the rise of the robot?

The average worker’s daily screen time is increasing every year and human interaction is on the decline in office life. Forget deepfakes and self-writing LinkedIn posts for a moment, how does a CEO made of vintage flesh and bone build personal trust, in a world with less personal contact?

The bedrock of any serious CEO’s success is their ability to win buy-in for their strategy from employees, investors, customers and partners. That means communicating in a way that actually resonates with the audience they’re talking to.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership,” said the late James Humes, a speechwriter to five US presidents. He had a point. There is still no better way to build enduring human connections at scale than a well-prepped, well delivered, old-fashioned bit of oratory.

The ability to project not just what you’re doing but why you personally care remains the great missed opportunity in leadership. And a leader with a backbone of emotional truth, consistently expressed over time, is still far from Silicon Valley’s reach.

The tight labor market makes the same case. New figures from LinkedIn show that Gen Z workers are switching jobs at a 134% higher rate than pre-pandemic, compared to 24% more for millennials. Cutting that churn in the engine room of the business means presenting a leader people understand, on a human level.   

Employee roadshows, townhalls, media interviews, investor calls. Building trust in these moments is critical and it should be built on insight, strategy and practice – not just instinct.

Just being visible on emails and update videos isn’t enough. Your avatar could do that.

Can a robot do your job? That’s up to you. This leadership race is going to get personal.