Once high-potential employees have been identified, new AI tools are emerging to help them develop the skills to reach their leadership potential, even those that require a human touch.
Harvard Business School professor Anthony Mayo studied more than 3,000 participants in the university’s flagship High Potentials Leadership Program (HPLP) from 2003 through 2021. He found that soft skills such as emotional intelligence and communication consistently ranked among the top three areas in which HiPos needed training.
“These skills are often a challenge,” explains Mayo, “because what got you to the place where you’re tapped to move into a leadership role, like being results-driven and self-reliant, can be an impediment to further growth. It takes a mindset shift.”
Traditionally, soft-skills leadership coaching has been done through one-on-one mentorship or week-long training retreats, but, as Mayo notes, “you can’t do that at cost and scale.”
So, can emerging technology scale up and democratize mentorship? A recent study shows that an AI chatbot was just as effective as a human coach in developing social skills over a 10-month cohort. Other research finds that trainees can establish “positive working alliances” with AI similar to those they form with human coaches.
Advances in natural language processing, including generative AI programs like ChatGPT, is accelerating chatbot coaching capabilities, says Chamorro-Premuzic, who notes that “AI can provide us with feedback on our behavior in the same way that wearables tell us whether we are moving enough or sitting for too long in our chair.”
Case in point: Before firing off an email or text, a HiPo training as a manager could ask their AI coach to review it for emotional tone and suggest more empathetic language. Or they may ask an AI coach to monitor a virtual meeting to assess whether people on the call reacted positively or not, who they addressed or ignored, or who they may have cut off mid-sentence.
But, Chamorro-Premuzic says, despite the emerging cottage industry of AI leadership coaching tools, AI “is not there yet” when it comes to effectively cultivating emotional intelligence and genuine empathy.
For high-potential employees, the potential of AI itself has not yet been fully tapped.