Leadership in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

May 4, 2018, 14:12 PM by Jamie Dittenber

20160601 Global Serhat Unsal CEO

Dawn Foods’ CEO, Serhat Unsal, recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of University of Michigan students at the school’s Tauber Leadership Speaker Series (TLSS). The student-organized initiative invites high-level executives to share insights with students about their careers, the qualities leaders need in today's global economy and the tangible steps to achieve excellence in their own career path.

On this particular day, Serhat had students’ captured attention as he discussed the increasingly competitive job market. In addition to competing against other graduates, Serhat noted today’s students also face increasing competition from machines.

“So, how do you stand out in the crowd? How do you differentiate?” Serhat posed to the group. “What is it you can do but computers and robots can never do, even with the best AI algorithm?”

According to Serhat, the answer is simple: leadership.

Serhat noted that leadership requires the sophistication of a human being. And while computers can do management – such as accomplishing specific tasks – they can’t lead.

For Serhat, there are three key pillars that provide a solid foundation for leadership in the age of technology and AI:

  • Passion: Follow your heart and do what you’re passionate about. After all, when you truly enjoy what you do and feel passionate, it is easier to lead others with that passion. Computers and robots do not have passion – so putting love and passion into what you do will always give people a leadership edge that computers will never have.
    • Golden tip #1: Go where it feels right – not where it makes sense.

  • Connection: Invest time and effort to connect with people around you. What this means: make people feel that you listen to them, you hear them, you understand them and you respect their point of view. Even if you don’t agree with someone, you can look at things through their eyes and respect them. According to Serhat, connecting with people emotionally will be vital in the years ahead as technology becomes more engrained in our everyday life.
    • Golden tip #2: Invest time to connect with people emotionally.


  • Selflessness: Increase your impact by trusting your team and helping them succeed. This ultimately is a matter of controlling your ego. Like cholesterol – there’s good cholesterol and bad cholesterol – there’s also good and bad ego. Some ego is required to do your job effectively (e.g. the ability to be confident, have the courage to act, etc.). However, too much ego is a hinderance to your future. This mindset requires humility – a uniquely human trait that computers will never possess.
    • Golden tip #3: Control your ego, maintain a healthy level of humility.

Serhat closed with a simple reminder on how to lead effectively: “Leadership in the age of AI is all about doing what computers cannot do: Leading through the power of these emotions.”

He added, “How you manage a particular project or how you achieve numbers may be forgotten. But how you lead will always be remembered. Let computers, and robots help us and do most of that management, while you focus on leading.”