I reject the idea of soft skills. There is nothing soft about them. We have hard skills, and we have HUMAN skills, and we need more human skills in business today. -Simon Sinek
Soft skills are the non-technical abilities that help you to adapt and grow in an organization. I would add that demonstrating soft skills also requires high levels of empathy and authenticity. Competencies such as having a growth mindset, demonstrating adaptability, being an active listener and showing openness to receiving feedback are just a few examples of soft skills. Earlier in my career when I would propose team development off-sites to facilitate learning around soft-skills, the client would inevitably ask me at some point, “but how do you measure the effectiveness of the training?”
It is true that developing soft skills is more difficult to measure, but it is also true, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, “89% of recruiters say that when a hire doesn’t work out, it usually comes down to a lack of soft skills.” For this reason, I would like to propose that soft skills are anything but soft. They are essential, vital competencies in today’s complex and demanding leadership positions.
The essential skills formerly categorized as “soft,” contribute to leader development in many ways. According to this recent Forbes article, leaders with savvy essential “soft” skills, have longer careers, highly transferable competencies, and are more prepared to be effective in remote work settings.
I write a great deal about emotional intelligence. The more individuals are committed to understanding and developing their emotional intelligence the more aware they are. The outward expression of a leader with a strong EI foundation is the demonstration of essential soft skills.
The reason I focus so much on emotional intelligence is because trying to develop soft skills in leaders without a foundation of emotional intelligence doesn’t work. The good news is, some organizations in the field of leadership development have also found tools to measure emotional intelligence and that makes it more easily accepted in a world that historically has valued technical skills over “soft” skills.
Here are 10 reflection questions you can ask yourself today to explore your internal dialogue about how essential soft skills are in your day to day interactions as a leader:
- In what ways is the work I do every day a worthy contribution?
- How do I go about giving my best to those I encounter every day?
- What do I like about how I respond when my course of action is not accepted? What might I improve?
- Am I using my talents fully? If not, why not?
- How have my values and beliefs impacted my relationships with others. How do I know?
- How do I ensure people know I have taken account of their views?
- How would the people I work with and my team describe me?
- How have I helped create a workplace where differences are supported and valued. What did I do specifically to create this culture of acceptance?
- What have I done, outside of my formal development plan, to deepen my emotional intelligence and develop my “soft” skills?
- Am I on the path to my envisioned future? If not, what can I do today to right the path?
I would argue that a strong technical foundation is assumed at the Senior Leader level. The capacity to keep growing into better humans, to echo Simon Sinek’s words, is what differentiates you as a leader and gives you the capacity, momentum, and resilience to lead us into the future. As J. Buchan wrote, “The role of a great leader is not to give greatness to human beings, but to help them extract the greatness they already have inside them.” Onward …
For more information about the “measurable” Emotional Intelligence Profile and coaching I do, please contact me.