Jessica Mehring at UCCSLead Leadership Conference

by | Speaking Engagements & Podcasts

UCCSLead Leadership Conference: Emerging Trends in Leadership


Saturday November 11, 2023

Speaking topic overview:

The Human Element: Relational Leadership in the Age of AI

In the age of AI, the call for leaders to be human is louder than ever. When new technology can provide quick answers to almost any practical question, “guidance” looks a whole lot different. No matter how advanced technology becomes, however, it can never replicate human experience—and because of this, it can never truly replicate how we relate to one another. As leaders, we must do what AI can’t do: relate to those we lead. Empathy is now a leader’s most important skill, and empathy is created by the questions we ask and the stories we tell. In this 25-minute presentation, you will learn what has changed in leadership in the age of AI, how to use story as a relationship building tool, and how leaders can create understanding using the twin powers of asking questions and listening with intention.

Event Recap:

What a great event! The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs put on quite a show. As I watched Dr. Regina Lewis kick off the day with a powerful keynote speech, I was struck by the fact that I was in the presence of greatness. Berger Hall was packed with undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and burgeoning business leaders who would be leading the charge to a greater future for all of us.

That afternoon, I gave my talk on relational leadership in the age of AI to a full room. After a brief introduction to how AI and GenAI are showing up in our everyday lives now, I called for these future leaders to do what AI can’t do: relate to those we lead. I revealed how storytelling and deep listening can build connection and grow empathy. As the audience nodded along, I knew the future was in good hands.

After my session, several people from the audience raised their hands to ask questions, including:

  • Is leadership evolving or changing? Evolving meaning there’s a memory remaining of traditional leadership; changing meaning it’s a sharp severing from traditional, hierarchical leadership. (My answer: I think it’s both! Leadership has been evolving right alongside technology (hello Transformative Leadership movement!). And now the traditional approach doesn’t “feel” right to most people anymore — so I believe it’s being abandoned wholesale in many instances.)
  • Are you worried about AI echo chambers? (My answer: Not really. I’m more worried about language homogeny, and losing all our beautiful human nuance.)
  • What are the good and bad ways to use GenAI? (My answer: Use it to test your thinking and structure your ideas. Don’t use it to write — but if you do, please, for the love of Alan Turing, fact-check and edit the draft A LOT.)
  • How can you get someone to share with you when they won’t answer your questions, or they keep repeating the same unhelpful answer? (My answer: Keep asking. Consider rephrasing your question. And then be quiet an uncomfortably long time.)

A young lady also came up to me to thank me for talking about AI and storytelling, because she believed few people were making that connection — and she gave me a book recommendation: *Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us by Mark Yaconelli. So guess what’s in my Kindle queue now!

Thanks to the university for inviting me to take part in UCCSlead 2023. I’m already planning a workshop to pitch for next year … 😃

About the event:

Through interactive breakout sessions and an engaging keynote speaker, The UCCSLead Student Leadership Conference will empower students to learn about leadership, share their leadership experiences with others, and connect with leaders on campus and in the Colorado Springs community.

This year’s theme is Emerging Trends in Leadership

Event mission statement:

To empower everyday leadership through story telling, connection, and learning.

Book Jessica Mehring to speak at your next event.