The Human Differentiator: Moral Leadership

March 15, 2019 Ben DiPietro

The emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning means humans no longer have a monopoly on intelligence, as both can consistently outperform and outprocess people.

So how can humans maintain relevance at work? By exerting moral leadership, said Dov Seidman, LRN’s founder, chairman and chief executive, at The New York TImes recent New Work Summit in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

“These unprecedented forces...are asking us to confront the most fundamental moral question of our time: What does it mean to be human in the age of intelligent machines when we no longer share the planet with inferior mammals?” said Seidman. “What makes us special and unique? That is a moral question.”

Before the technological revolution took hold, a general could say “Take that hill,” a CEO could lay out sales goals and other expectations. Then, the soldiers or employees would do what they were trained to do: the next thing right, said Seidman. But machines now can be programmed to do the next thing right, so where does that leave humans?

It’s doing the next right thing said Seidman—using uniquely human qualities and capabilities such as imagination, collaboration, and empathy to solve problems, innovate, and make smart, ethical choices. “Only a human being can do the next right thing,” said Seidman.

This means the source of competitive advantage will shift to the one thing machines don't have: a heart. In the age of intelligent machines, successful organizations will capture hearts, and use empathy and imagination to distinguish themselves from their competitors, said Seidman.

“The only kind of leadership that can capture the human heart...is moral leadership,” said Seidman. “Only moral leaders can inspire people to do the next right thing, to elevate another human being, and to speak and capture their heart.”

And people want moral leadership. LRN’s recent State of Moral Leadership in Business 2019 report found 87% of respondents say the need for moral leadership is more urgent than ever. However, the report found just 7% of corporate employees feel their leaders consistently behave as moral leaders.

“Moral authority must be earned by who you are and how you lead,” said Seidman. “Those with moral authority understand they cannot command loyalty, they can only inspire loyalty. But they can require truth. And if they require truth, they can get loyalty.”

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