Hard skills vs soft skills. The argument about which is more important or more necessary is as old as whether great leaders are born or developed.
Both sides have compiled convincing arguments, but throughout the thirty plus years I’ve been serving personal and professional leaders something is glaringly obvious: Those who want to reach the top are willing and committed to doing whatever it takes to get to there. And in today’s business and leadership environment that means developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence, communication and conflict resolution—so called “soft skills.”
Hard Skills Can Get You There—Soft Skill Keeps You There
We have all grown up with a hard skills emphasis on the importance of a post secondary education, and although there is no doubt that this can be very useful, there are other vital factors to be considered.
Just for a moment be really honest and consider this: Imagine that you have an executive opening in your organization and you have two applicants for position. One applicant has been in the post secondary educational systems for six years and has run labs with other students in the program. This person also graduated with honours. The other applicant has worked hands on in the industry, gone through its evolution and has successfully lead teams from a variety of backgrounds and specialities throughout that same six years. With the limited information you have here which one is a better fit for the position? If you are like most effective leaders you would likely say the second candidate for many reasons, not least of all the the savings in training and development. But let’s put even that to the side for a moment and ask; which of the two is likely to have had to learn the people skills needed for them to lead in executive position?
What those individuals who are committed to going to the next level understand is;
Those who embrace this are the leaders who become the heroes who can and will, with time, overcome any obstacle.
The world of business and leadership has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years. The ruthless dictatorial style of leadership that dominated the past is on life support and about to take its final breath. This new generation of leaders understand that business and success are people driven. Not only do they use the latest technologies and strategies to disrupt their industries, they also recognize something old-school leaders never truly grasped: Soft skills make the most impact on your bottom-line.
Lacking Soft Skills is Very Expensive
The American workforce has found that just 30 percent of the American workforce is “engaged and inspired” at work, with the other 70 percent either disengaged or miserable. According to a 2013 global Gallup research project: ‘Managers from hell’ cost US between $450 billion to $550 billion annually. “Gallup research also shows that these “managers from hell” are creating active disengagement Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton chalked the disengagement levels to these poor managers.
“When leaders in the United States of America — or any country for that matter — wake up one morning and say collectively, “Let’s get rid of managers from hell, (the research shows that the managers (and leaders) from hell and the ones who lack the soft/people skills and who are entirely focused on hard skills and bottom line results) … double the number of great managers and engaged employees, and have those managers lead based on what actually matters,” everything will change,” he added. “The country’s employees will be twice as effective, they’ll create far more customers, companies will grow, spiralling healthcare costs will decrease, and desperately needed GDP will boom like never before.”
The Biggest Obstacle
The outstanding leaders of today and tomorrow are the ones who are the most committed to self-awareness and self-development. The reasons are simple: they are better with people and they understand that if there is a business obstacle to overcome, it is overcome in the mind of the leader first.
Let’s take the example of Iranian business people. In your travels, in your neighborhood you have no doubt met many Persian people, (Iranians). By and large I have found them to be kind, caring and hard working people with a deeply entrepreneurial spirit that has made them successful business people wherever they have landed.
Different But the Same
Recently I had the honor of speaking with a highly successful business leader from Iran who has invited me to speak to 700 business leaders in the capital city Tehran at The 9th Annual World Management Conference. Our initial conversation was deeply revealing because it showed me that business leaders face the same challenges wherever they are in the world.
Tehran is a sophisticated modern city with a population of 16 million in its greater metro area. It has one of the highest populations of the millennial generation, and despite what you may have believed, a highly educated workforce. Women now comprise the majority of students at university. But Iran is also a highly sanctioned country with a government that may care more about an ideology than it does about assisting you with business.
Think about the challenges you face in doing business today, and now imagine what it would be like to face those challenges in Tehran. In my conversation with the Iran business leader, it soon became clear that business leaders all over the world understand that it is the soft skills of mindset, purpose, emotional intelligence and vision are what it takes to succeed in an ultra-competitive business world—no matter where in the world you are.
One of the reasons I love serving in the world of business is because today’s champions of personal growth are the business leaders who will dominate over the next decade! And that means utilizing soft skills to maintain the most profitable bottom line.
By the way, did you know that discipline doesn’t work well when it comes to leadership? Find out what does:
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