Leadership Matters | Summer 2023
Can ChatGPT Make You a Better Leader?
After testing out a few challenges, I can confidently say that I’ll be adding ChatGPT to my leadership toolbox—and you should too!
Jon Lokhorst, CPA, PCC
Executive Leadership Coach, Lokhorst Consulting
On Nov. 30, 2022, OpenAI released the prototype version of ChatGPT, one of the first generative artificial intelligence (AI) applications available to the public. Within five days of its launch, the application reached over 1 million users. By contrast, it took Facebook 10 months to reach that threshold. In February 2023, ChatGPT had reached over 1 billion users.
GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer, meaning that the AI technology has been trained to answer questions or prompts from users in a chat framework. The user’s ability to respond with additional context, follow-up questions, and requests makes the technology more interactive than typical online search applications, such as Google. ChatGPT’s wealth of data and information is astounding, as is the speed at which it generates responses to users. Not to mention, the basic version of the application is free and the upgraded version only costs $20 per month. Additionally, developers have begun releasing internet browser extensions and plug-ins to provide shortcuts for using the application.
Along with its strengths, however, ChatGPT also has its drawbacks. For instance, it has limited knowledge of events that occurred after September 2021 (ChatGPT and similar applications are rapidly evolving, so there’s a good chance some of the features highlighted in this article have already been updated). At times, ChatGPT has also given answers that are factually incorrect or biased. Teachers and educational institutions have also shared concerns about cheating and plagiarism, while social scientists question the potential negative impact on humanity and society.
Of course, these are all valid caveats to view ChatGPT as a research tool or brainstorming partner—not the ultimate authority. As Ford Saeks, a business growth expert and hall-of-fame speaker stresses, “You need to treat ChatGPT as an intern. Don’t treat it as an expert. Don’t take it at face value. You need to make it your own.”
Speaking of, you might be wondering, did I have ChatGPT write this article? I didn’t; I wrote it myself. But I couldn’t resist giving the chatbot a chance to write one, too. Whose article was better? I’m not telling (but I’d be glad to share ChatGPT’s version with you—if you’re interested).
TESTING 3 TYPICAL LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES
Saeks describes ChatGPT as a powerful engine that can help you with virtually every area of your business: operations, marketing, sales, among others. Most media attention on ChatGPT’s use in accounting and finance has been in the technical arena. In fact, when releasing its latest update to the platform in March, OpenAI President and Cofounder Greg Brockman used it to solve a complex tax question. This, of course, stirred my own curiosity on whether ChatGPT could be useful in other areas, like becoming a better leader.
To put ChatGPT to the test, I selected three typical leadership challenges, each of which I addressed in a separate chat thread (note that each thread can be saved for future use). In each challenge, I provided basic context, posing as a finance leader, and asked for ChatGPT’s assistance in researching a variety of leadership approaches to each challenge. The three challenges I provided were:
- I’m an executive leader of a team comprised of mostly introverted finance and accounting professionals. I’m seeking recommendations for 10 icebreaker questions to help team members get to know one another and engage more willingly in team meetings.
- I’m a partner in a public accounting firm that recently hired fully remote workers for the first time. In some cases, our managers had a hard time overseeing the quality and timeliness of their work. Do you have tips for supervising remote workers?
- I’m a CFO of a nonprofit social services organization, requesting that ChatGPT review the basic financial statements to provide highlights and concerns for a presentation to the board of directors. (Note: In this example, I copied and pasted the financials in the chat before asking the platform to suggest talking points.)
SURPRISINGLY HELPFUL RESPONSES (MOSTLY)
In all three scenarios, ChatGPT responded with lightning speed—the text filled the screen before I could lift my fingers from the keyboard. Using the basic information I supplied, the platform’s initial responses were surprisingly helpful. Though, they got better as I followed up with additional context and requested more advanced responses.
For the first challenge, the 10 icebreaker questions ChatGPT provided ranged from simple questions that almost every team member could easily answer (e.g., what’s your favorite hobby or activity to do outside of work?) to more in-depth questions that require more thought and openness from team members (e.g., if you could switch jobs with anyone in the company for a day, who would it be and why?).
For the second challenge about managing remote workers, ChatGPT generated tips for setting clear expectations, monitoring progress, providing training, and conducting regular check-ins. Based on my own experience of working with interns or research partners, I knew that responses would likely be improved or expanded upon if I provided follow-up questions or additional information. Therefore, I requested a deeper dive into these tips for when managers aren’t satisfied with their workers’ responses. The platform returned suggestions ranging from establishing clear goals and deadlines to considering a probationary period.
The nonprofit board report from challenge No. 3 drew the platform’s weakest response, at least initially. ChatGPT was quick to point out significant year-to-year variances but offered few comments or questions about the potential causes of those variances. The responses showed the value of knowing the organization’s programs, business activities, and financial decisions behind the financials. Also, ChatGPT provided only basic information when I asked a follow-up question about cash management recommendations (considering concerns in the banking industry at the time). It provided commentary on the importance of diversification and establishing a cash management account.
The three test chats took less than an hour in total, showing that a relatively small investment of time can jump start your brainstorming and critical-thinking process. Investing more time to provide additional information and deeper context via the chat panel improved results considerably. Of course, ChatGPT (and similar platforms) will continue to get better over time and provide opportunities to further customize interactions to your style and specifications.
So, should you add ChatGPT to your leadership toolbox? I think so! If you haven’t already done so, sign up for ChatGPT and start describing a significant leadership challenge for which you’d like ideas. Drill down with follow-up questions to generate additional insights. Use the chat’s responses to brainstorm additional ideas and formulate a game plan to address the situation and take action. With practice, you’ll get better at using the technology too. Just remember to treat it as an intern, not as an expert. As Saeks says, “AI won’t replace humans. AI will replace humans who don’t use AI.”