Leadership Positions in the Robotic Age:
Where’s the Job Security?

Leadership-Positions-FutureExactly how secure are leadership positions in this emerging Robotic Age? Are you absolutely sure your job can never be replaced by computers? Think about it. Computers are developing skills fast, including those usually thought of as uniquely human.

In April 2015, I posted on this blog about how robots were increasingly being used in business, and not just in manufacturing (“Help! A Robot Ate My Job”). In my series of posts on the human skills we’ll need if we want to stay relevant, I referred to the book Metaskills: 5 Talents for the Robotic Age, by Marty Neumeier in which he encourages leaders to improve the skills that can’t be performed by computers: creativity, emotional savvy, decisions, visions and planning.

“Welcome to the Robot Age. Technology is taking every job that doesn’t require a high degree of creativity, humanity or leadership. It seems to me that one thing a machine can’t do (yet) is think like a human. We are creative and imaginative. We can innovate.” ~ Marty Neumeier, Metaskills

But that apparently isn’t a guarantee of job relevance. Computers like IBM’s Watson are now developing the abilities for creative thinking. Companies are developing computers that can make judicial decisions, write narrative stories for businesses, predict prisoner recidivism, make accurate medical diagnoses, recognize facial expressions, and detect human emotions — often better than humans can.

“The rapid progress of infotech in taking over tasks at the high-skill end of the job spectrum – lawyers, doctors, managers, professors – is startling.” ~ Geoff Colvin, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will

From what I read, computers are improving faster than we are. Granted, fear of machines taking over everyone’s job hasn’t proved reasonable up to now, because new technology destroys jobs but it also creates new ones.

Technology and Job Displacement

Better technology creates better jobs and the employees who run them learn advanced skills — which in turn means they earn more. Technology over time and across economies has raised living standards spectacularly.

But will that remain true forever? I don’t think it can. Now for the first time, many mainstream economists and technologists have begun to question whether there will continue to be enough jobs for everyone. At some point, there will simply be fewer jobs to fill. For the first time, 50% of experts surveyed agreed that technology will displace more jobs than it creates by 2025. Previously only 10% of experts saw this as a problem.

Most of us agree that in the field of managing people, for one example, humans are uniquely qualified. We have amazing skills for recognizing and detecting emotions. Yet now we learn companies such as Emotient and Affectiva are developing computers that understand human emotion.They are looking at ways to improve market research and understand buying decisions.

Already the camera in many smart phones can detect faces and put a little box around them. More advanced software can examine those faces and spot muscle movements and tell a person’s levels of seven primary emotions.

Not only can computers detect emotion, they do it much better than we do, as reported in a Business Insider article by Will Dunham in March 2014.

So Ask Yourself…

Which leads me to a big question that I’m exploring in books this month: What then are the truly irreplaceable skills that leaders need to develop if they are to stay ahead of the robot curve and add unique human value? What’s your opinion on this?

I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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