Why The Best Leaders Are Big Softies

I co-wrote this article with my coaching colleague Kvon Tucker

Hard vs. Soft has been at the core of many debates in life from eggs, mattresses, to even toilet paper but never has it been more critical when defining the necessary skills for leaders to thrive.

Leaders know a lot of things but not everything.

Sometimes it’s the slightest degree of difference that makes the difference in those who lead. Let’s look at “soft skills” – something that isn’t always given the attention it deserves which is unfortunate because without them, well….you aren’t getting far in life (in or out of the workplace).

It begins with our leaders and their ability to embody their softer side.

It’s time to take a harder look at the softer side of leadership and the skills needed to be successful

Soft skills make up pretty much everything outside of the technical skills needed to do something. Our time coaching leaders have shown us time and time again, soft skills are what separate good leaders from great leaders. We wanted to share what we’ve learned from helping leaders transform into the most powerful, softies we know!

  • Soft skills are things like communication, relationship building, empathy, collaboration, and listening to name a few. These are the skills that are usually developed while in school, or in training, and are directly related to your ability to do the technical parts of your job.
  • Hard skills are things like coding, writing, and data analysis to name a few. Hard skills enable you to do something specific in a job, while soft skills are important for just about everything else.

Calling them hard and soft skills lead many people to believe that soft skills are easier to develop, are less important, and are only needed for specific circumstances. This is simply not true. As coaches and leaders, we know that to be successful in today’s 4th Industrial revolution, you must possess both. Here’s why.

Practice Makes Perfect

If there is one thing that we know about soft skills, it’s that they are very difficult to develop. We’re not just talking about acquiring the skills, but the practice of them as well.

Let’s take something like listening.

Most people think they are great listeners when in reality they have great short term memories. Don’t get it twisted. One requires intention (voluntary) and the other requires attention (involuntary)

The distinctions between hearing and listening are significant.

Listening is critical for coaches like us, leaders across all industries, and pretty much every human being. Except, when it comes to developing your listening skills, you will never be done. You can and always will be developing this important skill. Learning to listen for content, listening to your intuition, or listening to energy.

Some of the potential benefits of improving your listening skills as a leader:

  • Greater Trust – Acute and active listening builds rapport and fosters respect and trust between the speaker and listener.
  • Saves Time – Good listening leads to better understanding and accuracy of your speaker. It reduces misunderstandings and mistakes, which results in briefer conversations and time saved.
  • Builds EQ – Listening intently can help reduce misinformation which can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of self-regulation.  
  • Problem-Solving – Two minds can often be better than one. Listening effectively fosters collaboration which can greatly aid in brainstorming solutions.
  • Improved Connections – people respond better to someone whom they perceive is listening intently to their needs and is present. Employees are more likely to pay attention to you if you start by paying closer attention to them.
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They Are Critical for Leadership

Some leaders like to think that soft skills are optional.

We’re here to tell you that this could not be more wrong. In fact, if you are not consciously working towards developing your soft skills, you are falling behind.

We say this because most of the coaching we do is around helping leaders develop these skills. This is the most important work for leaders.

We also know that these skills become increasingly important the more you develop as a leader. You need soft skills if you are seeking to:

  • Create psychological safety on your team
  • Inspire others
  • Scale yourself from a Manager to Director, or from a Director to VP+
  • Boost workplace productivity
  • Improve communication 

And this is the tip of the iceberg. The list of potential benefits is long. So the next time you’re wondering whether developing soft skills is really worth the effort, the answer is yes, yes, and more yes!

They Will Be (Even More) Important In The Future

Regardless of where you are in your development as a leader, the time has come to focus on your soft side.

Soft skills are now a prerequisite for everyone.

According to the Future of Work & Workplaces 2030+ report:

  • Inclusivity, trust and focus on wellbeing define tomorrow’s workplace culture. Innovation culture happens when people connect and collaborate, and challenge existing norms. Emotional intelligence, advanced problem-solving and creative thinking are key soft skills.

As technology continues to advance, and more of the duties related to coding and data analysis is carried out by computers, we want you to think about one question:

  • What will be left once the computers are doing all of the technical work for us? 

The answer: Your soft skills as a leader and the culture you are responsible for cultivating.

In Summary

Soft skills may be the final frontier of our development as a species. One day, we will wake up, and the only thing we will need to think about working on will be how we work with others: human to human interfacing will be our main task.

One day, soft skills will make up the technical part of your jobs. For some of you, coaching and leading at the highest levels, they already do. In some ways, soft skills will become the new hard skills.

Soft skills may have once been considered less important, but that is changing. One day, they will be critical for any kind of success in this world and that day is today.

With leadership, Joshua & Kvon

The Floor Is Yours: 

What soft skills must leaders embody?

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