My new friend Srdjan, with whom I have shared a great collaborative journey, and to whom I was able to tell in a frank and open manner about my passion and emotions for what I do, proposed that I try to write up some of my reflections about leadership. And this is exactly why I am writing this article, which I hope you will continue to read and find the next words of your interest.
I was thrilled about this proposal, although perfectly aware that a “Yes” would have cost me some headaches and sleep (as well as some backlash from my wife). Typically, I prefer making slides with short sentences, but I am always eager to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself in new fields. Moreover, the topic of leadership is really not so simple…
Therefore, I decided to approach writing this article by recalling some stories about my friends or some adventures I have faced. And then I decided to use the assistance of something that is becoming very famous nowadays and for which I was sure that it would gladly support me. This article is not only a challenge but also a little experiment involving… Artificial Intelligence. I have involved ChatGPT (OpenAI) in the discussion. Let’s start immediately!
Andrea: Hi ChatGPT, are you a leader?
ChatGPT: As an artificial intelligence language model, I don’t have the ability to lead or make decisions on my own. I exist solely to provide information and answer questions to the best of my abilities based on the data I’ve been trained on. While I can provide insights and suggestions based on data, ultimately any decisions or actions must be taken by human beings who have the ability to make choices and lead others.
I found ChatGPT’s feedback quite thought-provoking. What does it mean to have the ability to lead? Who has the ability to lead? As of my experience, I am a firm believer that everybody has the ability to lead. There is not a single right way or a common approach. Leadership is something that is strongly connected with our nature and our talents. I understand that modern literature recognizes the benefits of training and classes on leadership, although I remain convinced that leadership remains something that is linked to our inner selves and everyone owns it. Reflecting on my professional, but also personal life, leaders that really fascinated me were those able to act as leaders without hiding their strong personality. I have a friend (that I of course consider a leader) who is always full of doubts and shows them even when you would not see it coming. He is indeed able to progressively identify open questions and he uses this capability in two ways: he continues to find a strong and solid basis to confirm his decision, and continues to find something interesting in whatever he is doing. I will get back to this, but now let’s ask ChatGPT a new question.
Andrea: How can each of us grow our own leadership?
- Actively seek out opportunities to lead. Look for ways to take on more responsibility and gain leadership experience.
- Develop strong communication skills. Being able to effectively communicate with those around you is key to successful leadership.
- Develop a strong sense of self-confidence. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and don’t be afraid to take risks.
- Learn from past experiences. Reflect on past experiences, both successes and failures, to identify lessons learned and apply them to future situations.
- Take initiative. Demonstrate willingness to take on new challenges and initiatives.
- Seek out mentors and role models. Look for people who have the qualities and skills you want to emulate.
- Practice empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of those around you and strive to understand their perspectives.
- Develop strong relationships. Build strong relationships with those around you, as strong relationships are essential for effective leadership.
- Remain open to feedback. Accept feedback from others and use it to improve your skills.
- Show humility. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.
What a fantastic answer! I think an important point to add to our discussion is the role of interest, passion, and motivation in leadership. Do you recall my friend, about whose ability to keep finding subsequent open-ended questions I was telling you earlier? This capability makes him able to continue to find and create interest around what he is currently challenging. I have another example to illustrate the relevance of cultivating motivation in leadership. One of my former bosses shared his experience with me, saying: “Andrea, I know you are experiencing incredible emotions in your personal and professional experience. About personal ones, live all of them and enjoy your experience. About professional ones, try to stabilize them and stay on track. I am well aware, he used to say, that personal and professional emotions affect each other. Surf the positive waves, don’t stop if the wind drops. Being a leader means working on yourself first.
But now is the time for a new question…
Andrea: How to understand if you are a good leader?
- Do you inspire others to reach their goals?
- Do you listen to and respect the opinions of others?
- Do you demonstrate good judgment and decision-making skills?
- Do you take responsibility for your actions and those of your team?
- Are you able to motivate your team and push them to do their best?
- Are you able to delegate tasks and empower others to take ownership?
- Do you foster an atmosphere of collaboration and trust?
- Are you able to give constructive feedback and handle difficult conversations?
- Do you show respect for all team members, regardless of their role?
- Do you have a clear vision of where you want the team or organization to go?
Thank you ChatGPT! I couldn’t agree more, I also think those questions are the key. And I would like to add something again… an 11th one. Do you take into consideration the feedback that comes from the others? From my point of view, feedback might be direct (e.g. reporting opinion or judgment about a behavior or something done, …) and also indirect (e.g. something that is communicated softly, …). And here is one of my favorite stories. At a certain point in my life, I decided that it was time to learn how to sail. In a few months, I found myself with a crew, at the helm of a 37 feet sailboat racing throughout the Ligurian Sea every weekend. When you lead such an incredible boat, there is one very important thing: understand the variety of feedback being open to leverage on all the five senses. When sailing, you have to make sure to feel the wind on the tips of both ears, feel the waves and reap the benefit with slight rudder corrections, check the sail filets if they are suffering or are cutting properly the wind, listen to the direct indications and the mood of the others. The same is applicable to working and leading an incredible team in a new challenge.
Time for the last question.
Andrea: What do I have to remember about leadership?
ChatGBT: Remember that leadership is not about achieving personal success or gaining power over others. It is about inspiring and empowering others to achieve their full potential and work together toward a common goal. By focusing on building strong relationships, communicating effectively, and leading by example, you can become an effective and respected leader in your personal and professional life.
This last statement left me completely speechless. “Remember that leadership is not about achieving personal success or gaining power over others”. This time I have nothing to add, because this is a profound truth that should be the foundation of any discussion about leadership. When I think of leaders, I always remember my friend, a true leader, always able to gather our friend group for personal, business or even social initiatives. He allows everyone to define their role and contribution, with respect to their abilities and ambitions. At the end of the day, I always use him as an example for anyone who aspires to be a leader in the future.
What have I learned today about leadership? First of all I can say that it was a pleasure to have a short conversation with an AI engine. ChatGPT is young, but quite knowledgeable about leadership, and really able to produce relevant feedback. Moreover, ChatGPT has a clear understanding of leadership, and that it is not about having power over others. I believe that leadership is present in any of us, it is “lead” by motivation and passion that you can find around yourself, it is a strength that put you in the condition to impact (hopefully positively) other people, even without any hierarchy, build open and bidirectional strong relationships around the possibility to achieve common goals with the same priority.
PS: I really made these inquiries to ChatGPT and the feedback reported was the one that the AI Engine actually gave. Due to time constraints, I never had the chance to ask those questions in sequence. And due to many different attempts, I received different feedback along with my article “experiment”, so I reported the ones I preferred.