Soft Skills More Important Than Ever

We live in exciting times, following a global pandemic, we are seeing major social upheaval and a heightened awareness of improving diversity and inclusion. There is also the shifting in the global order of leadership and a highly charged, in some cases, divisive views that seem almost impossible to bridge. Soft skills like communication, emotional intelligence, critical listening, and conflict resolution are more important now than ever before. They are not soft skills; they are essential leadership skills.

More and more business leaders are looking beyond the shareholder to a more balanced view that includes expanded stakeholders, including clients, employees, suppliers, board members, communities, and the environment.

There has been significant research done on the dangers of confirmation bias impacting leaders’ decisions. Our challenge now is to build diverse teams that listen to all voices. Different thinking is an opportunity for organizations, and studies have shown it impacts engagement of all stakeholders and improves the bottom line.

Recently LinkedIn published their fourth annual workplace learning report. You can download here https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report. It is an interesting read given the times that we are in and reinforces the need for diverse, decisive, principled leadership. When reading, you see the power and leverage created by aligning an inspired vision to an engaged, diverse workforce.

As companies evolve their leadership development strategies, it is worth summarizing some key points from the workplace performance report published by LinkedIn. Five areas stood out: 1) CEOs believe that upskilling is more critical today. 2) Investment in development programs is growing. 3) Executive engagement in leadership programs needs to increase. 4) Results achievement for continued investment in development programs. 5) Soft skills development is critical.

Today, given everything going on in the world and business, our leaders need to be highly effective at communication combined with emotional intelligence. Soft Skills!

The LinkedIn workplace learning report indicates how soft skills reign supreme as a development objective. I do not particularly like the term soft skills; essential skills are more appropriate. The top three areas highlighted in the report were leadership development, problem-solving, and communication.

From experience in working with clients, a gap in any of these three areas can lead to a poor performing culture and, ultimately, an organization that is not evolving and growing. The next level of essential leadership skills highlighted in the report is creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.

Soft skills no, essential leadership skills, yes. They are the most critical and research on emotional intelligence; EQ has proven that it is even more important than IQ in advancing organizations. Jay Hall conducted a broad study of over 16000 executives and concluded a direct correlation between achievement and the ability to care for and connect with people. Hall’s research revealed that top executives care about people as well as shareholder results. They also seek input from those who report to them as well as truly listen and act on it.

Leaders cannot be successful today without these essential leadership skills. Especially when all leaders need to build a diverse team where different views need to be heard and celebrated while achieving alignment and executing on decisions.

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