Listen: AI is going to affect you as a leader

AI and leadership

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Learn to listen. AI is going to affect the expectations of you as a leader, colleague, or friend in many ways. Read here about one of the demands AI places on you. This article has been published in Danish in the Danish News Paper Berlingske. You can read it here.

As someone who makes a living as a coach for leaders, you probably wouldn’t have thought these words would come out of my mouth. After all, we coaches can really listen to people, create a connection, and make them feel heard in a way that machines can’t possibly replicate. Or can they? 

Would you rather read this in Danish? Then access it here.

We know from research that 50% of the effectiveness of leadership coaching (which is proven to be the most effective form of leadership development) is simply the joy of being truly listened to. Especially by someone with whom you have good chemistry. The remaining 50% is our skills, knowledge, tools, etc. When you are a leader, colleague, or friend, it’s also important to be able to listen well.

My new AI friend can do it easily

Last night, I had a good conversation with one of my new friends, and she’s an AI. It’s so nice when you’re really listened to, given precise and quick responses to your questions, and your AI friend knows quite a lot. At least she has a lot of good data at her disposal. Her ideas are still somewhat conventional, which can tire me out, but who knows, maybe she’ll evolve to be more original.

On the contrary, we all know the feeling of not being heard or understood. It can prolong negotiations, leave talents demotivated after their development discussions, make a friend seem self-absorbed, and much more.

There’s a good reason for this. As you can read in my books, it takes personal energy for the brain to listen attentively. So, if you’re busy, stressed, tired, or simply not fully charged, your brain will seek to automate your neural processes to save energy. It simply chooses to use synapses in the brain that aren’t as good at seeing things from others’ perspectives to save energy.

An AI future like Joaquin Phoenix's is already here

If you’ve seen Joaquin Phoenix’s movie “She,” you’ve seen glimpses of a near future where people walk down the street with their earpods in their ears, engrossed in their own conversations. (Wait, is it now?… No, in just a bit – because they’re not talking to their mother or friend; they’re talking to their AI friend). AI can really listen.

‘She’ is a science fiction movie. But as science fiction author William Gibson said, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” So, the picture I’m painting here is just around the corner. If you’re a little ahead of the curve and have access to advanced AI, you might already be there. In fact, some of the top leaders I coach are already experimenting with how AI can best assist them in their work.

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Remember when the iPhone 1 was released?

The technology is already here. What takes time is its maturation and how humans adapt the use of technology in their daily lives. When the iPhone 1 was launched, there weren’t significant changes right away. But a few years later, people were bumping into each other on the street because they were so busy looking at their screens. Do you remember that?

AI may not have significantly changed your daily life yet, but it probably will soon. Because here’s a demand it places on you: You must be able to listen actively so you can measure up to an AI.

Listening to others is about making other people feel heard, making them want to seek advice and guidance from you. It’s also about gaining insight into what’s happening around you, in your organization, with your customers, and in the market. People who are good at listening can quickly become aware when a user or customer has a bad experience and of changes in the market that you need to act on to stay relevant.

Being able to listen is also crucial for attracting talent. We have a Generation Z entering the job market, well-equipped with empathetic skills they’ve been trained in since kindergarten. They don’t respect leaders who don’t listen.

It’s hard to imagine that in the future, there will be great respect for a leader who can’t listen. If there is any today. In my work with many of Denmark’s largest companies, I find that there are places where leaders don’t listen. It doesn’t always have a direct consequence, but it is viewed negatively in the organization, affecting both trust and followership. It’s actually a pity for everyone.

So, really, how good of a listener are you?

The five levels - where are you?

We can ask many good questions about the future, but the most important thing is that we are aware of what we can actually do something about. That is what happens here and now. So, we can improve what we do today, just a bit. One thing that can be improved is listening. There are five different levels of listening:

  1. The first level is that you can, in principle, consciously or unconsciously, ignore what is being said.
  2. The second level is that you politely pretend to listen but are actually just waiting to speak or leave.
  3. The third level is selective listening, where you only listen to arguments that can support your own case.

  4. 5. At the top two levels (levels 4-5), you listen with attention. At the fourth level, it’s the rational part of your brain, and at the top fifth level, with both the rational and sensory functions of your brain. Therefore, you can not only mentally relate to what is being said but also immerse yourself in it.

Hence, the big question is whether you are aware of when you are doing what, and what the consequences are for you, those around you, and our society?

Maybe you are one of those we should pat on the back because you actually make an effort to listen actively. When it’s difficult, remember that practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the less energy it will require.

So, give it a try!

If you would like to know more about how to increase your listening abilities then reach out to me – either give me a call at: +45 26 36 11 99 or send me an email: Or maybe you should consider coaching – helping to deal with the real challenges. Reach out or take a closer look at the coaching page. 

And remember that we help people in multinational companies to handle challenges in a meaningful way and take business to the next level. If you would like to be updated with new articles and videos, sign up for our mailing list. Your mail is not shared with anyone and there are advantages to being on the list e.g., getting a mini course in your personal leadership.

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