Narayan Bhatta

Understanding the emerging ethical challenges of leadership work in AI context

IBM, Amazon and Facebook recently announced that they have decided to shut down their AI based facial recognition system, citing the growing societal concerns, particularly the ethical aspects in the use of such technology and the lack of regulatory frameworks for the same. These industry examples show not solely but convincingly a need for more legal clarity, and an urgent need for more ethical considerations in terms of the use of AI in organizational life. Moreover, the cases reveal that the use of AI based digital technologies challenges leadership in organizations. For example, the leadership of a company may face reputational risks if the use of an AI system turns out to cause unwished outcomes or even becomes a source of a wicked ethical problem that is difficult to solve – That is the focus of my dissertation study.

A review of the previous literature on the topic of ethics and leadership in digitalization context, which I have published in 2021 with the help of a working grants from LSR, revealed that ethical concerns of leadership in the AI context have been studied to some extent in recent years – For instance, the topic has been of interest in the field of business ethics, computer ethics, information ethics, ethics of digitalization and lately on ethics of AI. However, my literature review revealed that the focus of the previous debates has been mostly on the ethics of AI or digitalization itself rather than the actual ethical problems experienced by leadership – Hence, the reviews determined that it is vital to conduct more empirical research of the topic than now.

The review also implies that we need more information on the ethical leadership competencies compatible for the digital era where humans and AI systems often work together, while there exists a lack of ethical and legal clarity for the actions delegated to and performed by AI systems – My study is an attempt to address this research gap. However, the study is not necessarily a debate to limit the potential of AI technology, but an attempt of understanding the actual ethical problems experienced by Finnish managers in their leadership work – And exploring the ways to implement it without causing tensions among stakeholders or organizational life itself.

The research project is in an intermediate stage. During this new research grants period during 2022, I will accomplish data collection tasks – And continue working to publish 1 of the research articles by the end of this year, from the remaining 3 empirical studies. Thus, the financial support from LSR has been immensely important to my doctoral dissertation journey. It is expected that my dissertation study will be completed by the year 2024.