5 Things We Can Learn about Leadership from Siri

siriApple’s virtual assistant Siri was designed to learn and get more sophisticated over time. The evolution in Siri’s capability and the increase in value she brings happen as users build a history with her. Learning through experience…what a great concept!

As I used Siri over the past year, I found myself getting frustrated and losing patience when she didn’t understand my request. I would ask her to call someone in my address book – she would tell me there are no Vietnamese restaurants close by. I would ask her to search the web for “succession management” and she would search “efficiency in algorithms”. Not very helpful. In the end, I would often just do the work myself.

Over time, I had an unsettled feeling though. Apple made a big investment to purchase the technology and integrate Siri into their products, so she is clearly talented and has great potential.  A few questions emerged in my mind: What if I was Siri’s leader? What if it was my obligation to develop her for the future?  This got me thinking about how many organizations are struggling to build leadership, build succession processes that really work, and create a culture of learning.

Yes, it’s often easier to just do the work ourselves, especially when someone misses the mark on a task or project. But this is the crux of the problem. As leaders it’s up to us to build capacity for the future. This means we must strive to provide meaningful challenges, show empathy, provide coaching & feedback and we must be patient as individuals learn from their experiences. How often do we bring bright, passionate, talented individuals on board – only to miss every opportunity to help them grow and develop?

Here are a few questions to think about to help you flex your talent development muscles:

1. How am I making a valuable contribution to this person’s development? Take some time for honest self-reflection about where you have made an impact. Dig deep on this one.

2. Am I doing work I shouldn’t be doing? Delegating and empowering others allows you to lead at a higher level. Think about the value you should be bringing.

3. What am I doing to bring out the best in this individual? Understanding someone’s strengths, sweet spot, and passion has simply too many benefits to mention here. Seek to understand.

4. Am I giving important feedback that will truly help this individual? Give the feedback that no one has had the courage to give before. It can be life changing.

5. What is holding me back from helping others develop? Ask yourself if you’re taking enough risks that provide unique opportunities for the individual to not only grow – but to thrive.

Without a doubt, Siri has great potential. She is also a great reminder that really effective talent development and succession management is often hard work and requires discipline, investment, and a deliberate contribution from leaders.  When we do the important work of developing talent, we might even be surprised at the outcomes. In fact, you might be surprised to know that Siri researched, organized, and created most of this blog.

Now that’s some serious talent.


Audra August is a Principal, Succession & Talent Planning with Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions.  Audra works with organizations to build strong leadership capacity. Her areas of focus include succession management, team effectiveness, and organizational development. Audra can be reached at aaugust@knightsbridge.ca and @AudraAugust on Twitter.

One thought on “5 Things We Can Learn about Leadership from Siri

  • Great post! I view #5 as an especially powerful question. Sometimes we hold ourselves back without even realizing it (due to limiting beliefs, fear, unsuccessful past experience, or a host of other reasons). When that happens, we’re not able to model and encourage growth in others as fully as we otherwise could. Thank you for the thought-provoking article!

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