Will a Robot Be Your Next Boss?

Daniel Kahneman thinks so, and he’s no ordinary slouch. Kahneman won a Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics and is a NY Times bestselling author. His position is that advanced technology will soon eclipse the ‘computing power’ of even the best leaders, removing all errors in judgment while producing better outcomes.

Lost in SpaceKahneman isn’t alone. A recent Oxford University study reports that computers may soon replace people in 45% of American jobs, and not just manual labor. Leaders at all levels may be looking for new gigs as automation permeates the workforce.

Whether we like it or not, change is afoot. So to avoid being displaced by a circuit board, we need to focus on the very attributes that make us human. This applies in our competition against actual technology, as well as those humans out there who operate as ‘robot bosses.’

To win, you must become irreplaceable, even when competing with the most advanced automation. Here’s how:

Be inspiring. Think about someone who has really inspired you professionally – a coworker, boss, or mentor. Most likely, the driving force was their passion, that uniquely human fire. Being passionate yourself inspires those around you – to create, to persist, and to seize their full potential. Entertaining as they may be, it’s hard to imagine being truly inspired by the likes of Siri and Cortana.

Be a dreamer. Not necessarily a hippie, one love kind of dreamer, unless that’s your thing. But to dream is to imagine what can be instead of just what already is. Robots deal in hard facts and past performance, but you can leverage your human gift of imagining – and then bringing to life – the vast array of possibilities.

Be wrong. No one likes a know-it-all. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have your boss be an indisputable, mechanical repository of correctness. There is something incredibly reaffirming in seeing someone, especially a leader, be vulnerable. Whether it’s admitting a mistake, showing emotion, or connecting with other employees on a personal level, vulnerability fosters relationships. Being fallible and having emotions shouldn’t always dictate our behavior, but our ability to have and own them is endearing and helps us connect better with those we lead.

Be empathetic. For Mr. Spock, empathy “does not compute.” But for those you lead and serve, it is one of the most important yet overlooked leadership qualities. Feeling what your customers, team, or suppliers feel allows you to connect in a way no computer can, driving both better experiences and ultimately better performance.

Be the rock. Not Dwayne Johnson, though he would certainly be hard to replace. Be the rock for your coworkers and employees when things are difficult, for the business or for them personally. Be that someone they can rely upon. Be willing to take hits for the team, even when it’s not your fault.  In contrast, it’s hard to imagine a robo-manager going to bat for you. When a colleague knows you have their back, they will double down to help you, which will enable you to trounce your tech-based competitors.

Ultimately, the imperfect qualities that make us human become our greatest competitive advantage. 

Outrageous performance metrics, demanding expectations and unrelenting schedules can make us feel like the only way to succeed is to become more like a robot. But if we’re headed for The Matrix, doubling down on all those human messy flaws may just be our best advantage. To win today, and deep into the future, your humanity becomes your most powerful tech tool. No upgrades required.