All leaders need more powerful soft skills

All leaders need more powerful soft skills

Transforming an organization requires leaders who can communicate and get everyone on board


In discussions with leaders, I have noticed more and more of them coming to terms with the increased demand for powerful soft skills. I have been a strong believer for a long time, and I am glad to see awareness and clarity starting to grow.

When approaching this subject, I would encourage leaders to start with the ‘why’ of soft skills and understand the need for them to develop these attributes personally.

So why? The definition of being an effective leader is changing. In this future of constant change, all leaders need these highly transferrable, non-technical skills to ensure effective leadership, problem-solving and communication, no matter how the landscape changes.

It is undeniable that the leadership challenges of today and tomorrow will be different. Now, everything is more diverse and complex, and the challenges more people-centred. Leaders need to demonstrate their value in many more and new ways.

Simply put, a failure to act on soft skills development is an increasing cost to you and your organisation. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management of soft skills in the workplace described the high price tag of allowing poor levels of soft-skill development. In large global corporations, it estimated, miscommunication alone costs each business $62.4 million a year. In a small, 100-person organisation, the number is $420,000 annually. Can any business afford that?

Simply put, leaders have a new set of internal and external challenges. Leaders need to inspire they workforces amid a global pandemic, technological transformation and increased competition. They need to lead a new workforce with different (and changing) attitudes and requirements.

Misalignment between leaders and their people’s understanding, direction and changing needs can be fatal to company culture. Leading amid today’s challenging conditions requires a new personal and organizational approach to professional soft skills development, which is unfortunately often overlooked in the rush to digitisation.

However, a lack of soft skills as organisations strive to maximise hard skills can jeopardise progress. Simply put, we must understand the fact that we are leading in a greatly transformed and transforming world. I suggest you think of your own recent experiences:

  • How much has changed in how you need to lead?
  • How much has the way your team works — and the way you shape their work — changed?
  • How much more are the ill effects of an employee who cannot communicate ideas well and work as an effective disruptive teammate?
  • How frustrating for a leader is it when that person’s knowledge and expertise cannot effectively add more value?

Who besides you as a leader can resolve this situation? How can you as a leader transform your soft skills if they are not great?

Another common question: Do all leaders need to concern themselves with soft skills? My thought is yes — and especially for tech leaders. Leaders with the technical, even rare, hard knowledge needed to complete certain demanding tasks often fail because they cannot communicate effectively or work with people. They cannot engage others effectively. Sadly, their failure is not a case of being able or unable to develop these skills, it’s simply that they never understood their importance in the first place.

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