So we all get it- knowledge is important and technical skills are critical. It almost seems to be the qualification required to get the leader orc- suite badge of honor. Once you’re a technocrat you are guaranteed a seat at the table of higher expectations driven by performance- and for good reasons too.
To get and keep a job one typically needs a repertoire of technical skills. This has further fueled the inner drive to get the next degree, certification, or executive education but the higher your cadre, the harder the challenge to translate these technical skills into leadership KPI’s.
Soft skills are generally personal attributes or behaviors that are needed to build positive relationships with people. Some have termed it a discipline that is catching on globally as companies realize the importance of leadership capabilities and interpersonal relations in enhancing the bottom line.
Wikipedia defines soft skills as “associated with a person’s ‘EQ’ (emotional intelligence quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people.”
Investopedia defines hard skills as “specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured”. So hard skills are more technical and function-focused”
According to Lie Han, soft skills are more people skills (communication, teamwork, and leadership skills) and self-management skills (awareness, confidence, resilience). From research, there are three common myths about soft skills development –
Myth 1: People are born with better soft skills than others- No they are not. They apply the now contested “10,000 hours rule” and just get better. Just the way muscles are developed from strength training, soft skills can be developed.
Myth 2: I have to be an extrovert to be good at soft skills- No you don’t. Yes, extroverts tend to be more vocal, but they are by no means better at soft skills than introverts.
Myth 3: I am too old and too set in my ways to develop new skills- No you’re not. This can be a limiting belief or just a plain old excuse for the most part.
Ironically, soft skills are not always taught in schools nor deliberately mastered on an ongoing basis but critical for promotion. Soft skills are often undervalued.
If soft skills have this level of potential and power it’s important that these myths are dispelled.
In summary, the emphasis and focus may actually be from messages we send to our brains- hard is tough, it connotes rigor and straight talk and is required in the workplace while soft is fluffy, less tangible, cannot be measured, and not suited for the workplace.
While technical skills may get your foot in the door, people skills open most of the doors. Your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your emotional intelligence are the soft skills that are crucial for success in the workplace.
When it comes to inspiring, connecting, leading, and impacting, soft skills enable you to excel as a leader.
-Ngozi Adebiyi is the Lead Consultant at OutsideIn HR- “We develop commercially astute HR leaders and equip business leaders & employees to build an Ownership mindset!”
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