Soft Skills Are Now a Critical Priority in Leadership“The whole human side is now more important than skills or IQ. Everything we hear from clients is about the human aspects of leadership,” reports Rajeev Vasudeva, CEO of the Egon Zehnder executive recruiting firm. In a feature article on today’s “ultra-tight job market,” Fortune magazine concludes, “across industries, employers are prizing people skills, the so-called soft skills, more highly than before.”

Jason Baumgarten, a search consultant at Spencer Stuart, advises leaders to attract today’s top talent by “making people feel they’re part of an organization that matters.” Adds HR chief at Intuit, Sherry Whiteley, people today “want to make a difference. They’re very purpose-driven.” A study of 500 global CEOs by Egon Zehnder found that “building an emotional connection” has become a key leadership objective.

These trends also show up in a recent LinkedIn survey of 1,200 talent developers, 2,200 employees, 400 people managers, and 200 executives. The “Workplace Learning Report” found, “among all groups the top priority for talent development in 2018 was training for soft skills.”

Here are a few key points of the report:

  • “…the pace of change is fueling demand for adaptable, critical thinkers, communicators, and leaders.
  • Leadership skills are in high demand… (to) inspire others, not only to do their own tasks but to come along on the ride to success… no company can survive without them.
  • Lack of collaboration can put the brakes on even the simplest task, once an environment of trust is established, collaboration skills can be taught.
  • With targeted training and mentoring, a business can develop or polish the communication skills employees need to work effectively.
  • As the workforce goes global, so does the need for training — across time zones and even cultural norms.
  • Learning and career development is at the core of the employee experience and personalization is critical to engaging a multi-generational workforce with varied learning needs.”

“Soft skills” are core elements in leadership effectiveness and high performing cultures. It’s a central thread running throughout the May issue of The Leader Letter that we publish tomorrow. The 4th Canadian conference on the emerging science of Positive Psychology is drilling ever deeper into clarifying what makes individuals, teams, and organizations flourish. The first global assessment of the current state of organizational excellence is your chance to be part of important research and assess the state of your own culture. Excellence models are becoming ever better maps on balancing the hard data, analysis, and processes of management with the soft emotions, people, and culture of leadership. And you can see how customer service levels reflect just how balanced and effective an organization’s culture really is.

Two decades of Emotional Intelligence research clearly shows that understanding and controlling our own emotions while making emotional connections with others is a vital component of personal, team, and organization effectiveness. As we know by the lack of leadership effectiveness in so many organizations, consistently practicing those “soft skills” can be really hard.