When Donald Trump called on voters before the election to ‘Make America Great Again’, he clearly struck a chord with many in the population. In a global age, he claimed, only protectionism could reverse the country’s industrial decline.

But other commentators see things differently. In fact, according to Ed Hess, professor of business administration at the Darden School of Business at University of Virginia, this is the worst time to be looking backwards. Quoting research claiming that 47% of all US jobs could be taken over by Artificial Intelligence within the next 15 years, Hess argues strongly that we need to be looking ahead to ensure that human society advances in line with the machines.

Until recently this would have sounded like science fiction, but now it’s beyond doubt that AI will be our next Industrial Revolution. And just as that period produced benefits to human society only after decades of deep and widespread suffering, the rise of AI implies both promises and threats. Almost all organisations stand to benefit from this technology, but how does it affect their responsibilities to their people?

There is still a task that machines cannot perform, and it’s crucial. Innovation comes from inspiration and collaboration, and they’re driven by people. As Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer at Accenture said last year at Davos: “humans are at the heart of digital disruption… the behaviours that humans have around emotions and creativity, theyre not things that are going to be replaced by machines.”

Leaders are already being called on to develop strategies for change in their organisations that make the best use of human capital. In the past few decades, we’ve seen leaders focussing almost entirely on how to take advantage of technologies that drive things like process improvements and communications traffic. Now the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution will force leaders to face a different challenge.

At Potential Squared we develop leaders who foster innovation and drive change. In other words, it’s about being the first to leave the village and inspiring others to come with you. That inspired action is about to become even more important as the nature of work changes. Employees need to feel confident in the value of their contribution, they need to feel connected and they need to be able to grow. In short, they need to be put first.

Our Executive Presence programme starts with showing how to build this trust, then moves on to agitating for the future through pushing people to bring their best. This is about setting challenges rather than telling them what to do, working with them to be discerning in how they handle risk and promoting design thinking through experimentation. We do this because we’ve seen the human-centric approach to change and innovation translate into success for both organisations and the people within them.

Great leaders already know that people are at the centre of every organisation, and that’s never going to change. So, putting them first, helping them grow and developing their strengths will make sure your employees remain more valuable than the most powerful machine. This is why Trump is wrong to be looking back to ‘the good old days’ (which never existed anyway). We all, especially as leaders, need to be looking forward. We need to create the change we want to live.

For more information about our Executive Presence programme, contact us today.