Soft skills are critical to your success as a leader, and so, the term ‘soft’ belies their true value. Soft skills are becoming increasingly important to organisations, and yet, leaders with strong soft skills are in short supply. In this article, I take a closer look at why soft skills are such an important part of your aptitude as a leader.
What are soft skills?
As many as 93% of employers consider soft skills to be an essential factor when hiring new employees, including leaders. And yet, many organisations find it incredibly difficult to source candidates with the appropriate soft skills.
Soft skills are hard to measure, quantify and evaluate. Unlike your ‘hard’, or job-specific skills, soft skills are transferable to any role and any situation. They are interpersonal skills, and include your personality traits, communication skills, listening skills, empathy, and ability to understand unspoken social cues.
While your hard skills are obtained through on-the-job training or certification, soft skills are acquired through years of interaction with other people, both in your working life and in social situations.
Why are soft skills essential for a leader?
The difference between a leader and those they lead is not simply a job title. Leadership is all about influence. An effective leader has a superior ability to communicate, direct, and inspire those that they manage. Not only do leaders need to have a solid technical and job-specific expertise but they must also possess the soft skills that enable them to motivate their teams, communicate important messages, and bring about change in their organisations. Too often, businesses make the mistake of assuming that a highly-performing team member will make a good leader.
A great salesperson does not a leader make.
How often have you encountered leaders who simply make demands, without communicating their intentions, or taking on board the feedback and opinions of their team? These types of leaders, who lack interpersonal skills, are not only unpleasant to work with, but are ineffective as leaders. It’s well understood (and backed by research) that people do not leave companies, they leave managers. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that around 75% of workers who voluntarily leave their jobs do so for reasons that are directly related to management.
Success as a leader relies heavily on the use of soft skills, often in subtle ways. Having well-developed soft skills means being better at negotiating, organising, motivating, and making both employees and clients feel heard and understood; which is why these skills are so critical when it comes to being an effective leader.
Are your soft skills letting you down?
Do you find that, no matter how technically proficient you are at your job, you have difficulty in closing deals, negotiating, or running successful meetings? Do you have trouble organising your team, or achieving your desired outcomes? Any of these issues might indicate that your soft skills are letting you down. It’s time to get working on them!
How to develop your soft skills
In today’s increasingly competitive world, it’s no longer OK to be average. Not only will soft skills make you a better leader, they can make an incredible difference to all areas of your life. By developing your soft skills, you can become a better negotiator (both at work and at home!), run more productive meetings, become a better public speaker, build trust, and win more clients.
Unlike hard skills, soft skills aren’t often taught on the job. Luckily, although they can take years to cultivate naturally, these skills can be taught and developed in specialised soft-skills training programs for leaders.
As a qualified and experienced corporate speaking and training expert, I have helped countless senior leaders to develop their soft skills to become better leaders. I offer a range of speaking courses which will help you to develop your own leadership voice and hone your interpersonal skills, to make you the most effective and inspiring leader you can be. If you’re ready to close the gap in your leadership skills and develop your soft skills to expert level, book into one of my workshops today.