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How thought leaders are using AI

Thought leaders, such as John Baldoni, are turning to AI to create chatbots that can answer questions based on their body of work.

6 min read



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For many people, the concept of artificial intelligence sends shivers up the spine. For others, it may breed resentment or even fear.

john baldoni 2022

For those in the thought leadership field — business advisors, coaches and consultants — AI is here. And for that reason, “fear and loathing” (to borrow from Hunter S. Thompson’s adage) must go. So, I took the plunge into AI with the launch of the Baldoni Chatbot, a fusion of AI technology with leadership knowledge and practice. 

What I did

My chatbot brings together my body of work — more than a dozen books, hundreds of articles and many interviews – in a way that makes them accessible and engaging. This approach enables the chatbot to respond with targeted answers to user questions.

I trained my chatbot to answer questions relevant to my coaching and leadership development insights. Now, in its third generation, the chatbot can answer questions more readily and quickly than I could when chatting.

Therefore, it cannot tell you what time it is, who the president is or what color the sky is. It can, however, give you answers to questions such as:

  • What is the difference between leading and managing?
  • How do I lead with purpose?
  • How can I influence my peers?
  • How do leaders show grace under stress?
  • How do I balance compassion and accountability?
  • How can I give difficult feedback to employees?
  • How do I lead my boss?

“The Baldoni Chatbot began as a way to engage John’s fans and followers meaningfully,” says Mahesh M. Thakur, the founder and CEO of the AI-powered Influencer Kit, which conceptualized, developed and personalized the Baldoni Chatbot. “It has quickly morphed into a tool synthesizing John’s ideas, expressing them using his tone and personality.”

“Those working in the field of human development can use AI as a tool to help them organize their content and deliver it virtually in real time. This engages their fans meaningfully, generate leads, gets speaking inquiries and sells books,” says Thakur, a technology executive and entrepreneur who has worked in AI for the past two decades, including as a product management leader for the Microsoft Bing search engine.

Influencer Kit is built for coaches and service-as-a-source businesses. “The power of AI, when applied the right way, can be transformational for small and medium-sized businesses,” says Thakur. 

The Marshall Bot

The idea for creating my chatbot came from Marshall Goldsmith, often referred to as the world’s preeminent executive coach and the author of multiple New York Times best-sellers, including “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” “Triggers,” “Mojo” and “The Earned Life.” 

The Marshall Bot draws upon Marshall’s many books, speeches and videos. The Marshall Bot uses text and soon will have audio to enhance the user experience. The bot also incorporates Marshall’s hands-on efforts. He has spent hundreds of hours training the bot to think and speak like him. 

“After three months,” Marshall told technology author Jyoti Guptara at the Global Peter Drucker Forum, “Generation 3 of Marshall Bot can answer questions given to me, I would say, in a more articulate way than I can, about 50% of the time. This is a primitive version. … I have no doubt [future Marshall Bots] will be able to answer 95% of the questions I get better than I can — as judged by me.” 

It is also essential to imbue a bot with a personality. “I’m practicing trying to give it some humor,” Marshall says. “For example, suppose you ask it how many languages I speak. In that case, the answer is now: ‘I can barely speak American English.’ Or, if you ask about my grandchildren, it replies with: ‘Marshall has the greatest grandchildren in the world.’ “

The Marshall Bot will be freely accessible to users, keeping with Marshall’s commitment to sharing all he knows with the world. 

Exploring the impact of AI

One person who is wired into the exploration of AI — as well as VR and AR (video and augmented reality, respectively) — is Martin Lindstrom, the founder of a $22 million project called Engineering Our Dreams — the world’s largest extended reality project that will explore the effect of these new technologies on business and people. 

Lindstrom told me: “The two words ‘human’ and ‘evolution’ often go hand in hand. Progress is hardwired into our DNA, making humans the dominant species on planet Earth. Technology has become the main tool of the 21st century, further evolving humans towards ‘technological augmentation. This concept refers to integrating technology into various aspects of human life, enhancing our physical and cognitive abilities, and extending our dependence on technological advancements for everyday functioning. 

“To understand this evolution and where it will lead us,” Lindstrom continues, “it is essential for people working in the field of human development to utilize AI. The potential and outcome of this can only be fully comprehended by those who are actively engaged in or familiar with this technology.”

It takes a team

Developing the Baldoni Chatbot has been a team effort. The chief technologist behind Influence Kit is Pavan Tallapragadam. “The chatbot is also always learning,” Tallapragadam says. “More data from the author and more user engagements make the bot smarter and the user wiser.”

“Like any new tool, to get to truly understand it, play with it. Explore it. Test it, ” Lindstrom says. “And then, finally, begin developing theories and hypotheses helping the authors frame this new tool, ensuring that it is used to its full potential … in a safe and trustworthy way.”

The Baldoni Chatbot is my first step with AI. It resides on my website and is available free. I plan to use it with my senior leader clients as a reference tool to help them coach and teach their own people. The chatbot also can extend the lessons of my keynote presentations. Looking ahead, HR departments will license chatbots from thought leaders as part of their library of personal and professional development tools.

“Marshall’s exploring AI inspires many of us in the leadership space to emulate his example to share what we know more widely and in new and different ways,” Thakur says. “The power of AI is available to more people on more platforms. We believe AI can bring out the best in us that we can share with others. We focus on what’s good to help you become better.”


John Baldoni is a member of 100 coaches and a leadership keynote presenter. He is recognized as a top 20 leadership expert by Global Gurus, a list he has been on since 2007. He also ranks as a Global 100 Leader and Top 50 Leadership Expert by John is the author of 15 books. His leadership resource website is 

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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