What an intellectual power duo! ECSI recently sat down in Munich to discuss AI and leadership with two of Germany’s leading advisors for international top managers: Dorothea Assig and Dorothee Echter. In addition to being influential CEO coaches for many DAX firms in Germany they are also acclaimed authors in leadership and decision making.

Having attended their book launch at the Literaturhaus in Munich last year, ECSI sat town again with these two inspiring women to talk about leadership in the age of AI.

ECSI: “Like industrial revolutions before, AI will change the job market, but will it only affect the factory workers or impact also the top executives?

Dorothee: “Yes, AI will also take over a lot of today`s work of managers:

  • getting and evaluating data they need to make decisions,
  • creating data based concepts for investors/boards/customers,
  • leading people by tools like evaluation, controlling, feedback systems, etc.

But is this really the supposed priority of an executive? In our research we found that even C-level personalities confess they need 90 % of their time to work on this trivial tasks.”

Dorothea: “To give you an example: Marik is an Egyptian-German top manager working for one of the ten biggest German international companies as a direct report to the board. He is a brilliant salesman and negotiator, winning big contracts with a light hand. Instead of spending a good time in Egypt dining and wining (rsp. drinking tea …) with his high calibre business partners, he had to work on a new corporate budget framework with his team – for weeks, until the very last number met the expectations and the level of knowledge of the board.”

ECSI: “So what are leaders supposed to do with all the free time their AI assistant is going to give them in the future?”

Dorothea: “We encourage our clients to focus on what great leaders should do based on leadership researches of the last 20 years. These activities will not be replaced by algorithms. In future, they should take 90 % of the time of executives:

  • provide purpose for all employees
  • be role model for changes they want to bring about
  • inspire, support and decide about future business models and strategies to make the company viable in the long term
  • develop influence in the external network – in Egypt or elsewhere
  • build ecosystem of alliances and partners.

Dorothee: “It is about the recognizing and the growth of the own personality, for which they will need time without being overwhelmed by tactical, routine tasks. “

ECSI: “That sounds great. Can you give me an example where leadership trumped data? We have done research as ECSI on the insight generation power of qualitative data”

Dorothea: “Yes, when Sammy Liu, CSO of an automotive supplier in Michigan, one day visited his sales team in Milan, he spoke about what moved him and showed a slide with next year`s annual targets. Though he knew he had sent the slide to everybody with detailed explanations, it seemed to him during the discussion that no one could remember the figures. Then he found out that two weeks before, the Italian country manager had visited the team, and with his Italian charm he had praised everyone and inspired them for his own, completely different short-term goals. Feelings always superimpose cognition.”

ECSI: “But how do we then assess the performance of future leaders in the age of AI? Can we find an algorithm that judges a CEO’s performance?”

Dorothee: “No, in times of AI, companies become open systems without clearly defined boundaries. Top managers must prove every day what their valuable contribution is, internally and externally. They cannot rely on their performance, no one can objectively assess it anyway. Only statements of other influential personalities about them are credible.”

Dorothea: “It is all about their personal relationships. Their high calibre informal personal contacts define how they are perceived. One of our clients asked us: When will I be really influential? Our answer is: that will be the moment you are invited by the DAX company president for brunch some Sunday morning, together with other important personalities.

Dorothee: “Don’t forget that influential international personalities always meet their business friends personally. They discuss in trusting settings, in these witty, cheerful, yet intellectually ambitious groups, meeting for dinner, for a mountain walk, a trip to the dacha at the Cote d`Azur, or at a side-event in Davos. There, sustainable reputation and influence is built. In order to belong to what we call an influencing community, you must leave the office. Indeed, you need many years of participations in conferences, private settings and sharing of your knowledge widely.

ECSI: Thank you so much for this talk and we look forward to collaborations with you in the future!