The argument about “Hard skills vs soft skills” and which one is more important or more necessary is as old as “Are great leaders born or developed”.
Both sides have compiled convincing arguments, but throughout the thirty plus years, I’ve been serving personal and professional leaders, I’ve come to realize that it is glaringly obvious: Those who want to reach the top, are willing and committed to doing whatever it takes to get 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 Skills Keep You There
We have all grown up with a hard skills emphasis on the importance of a postsecondary 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 job opening in your organization and you have two final applicants for the position. One applicant has been in the post-secondary educational systems for six years, and has ran labs with other students in the program, and graduated with an honors degree. The other applicant has worked hands-on in the industry, and has successfully led teams composed of individuals with different backgrounds and specificities for six years.
Given that you have limited information, which one do you consider to be the best fit for the position? If you are like most effective leaders you would likely say the second candidate for many reasons, starting from training and development costs. However, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves – which of the two is likely to have learned the people skills needed for them to lead in an executive position?
Individuals who are committed to going to the next level understand that: Hard skills may get you to the top, but it is soft skills that will keep you there and make sure that you are not alone when you arrive!
Those who embrace this view 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 understands 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% of the American workforce is “engaged and inspired” at work, with the other 70% being either “disengaged or miserable”. According to a 2013 Gallup Global Research Project, ‘Managers from hell’ cost the US between $450 billion to $550 billion annually. Gallup Research also indicates that these “managers from hell” are creating active disengagement.
“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, spiraling healthcare costs will decrease, and desperately needed GDP will boom like never before.” – Jim Clifton, The Chairman, and CEO of the Gallup Organization
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 needs to be overcome in the mind of the leader first.
Let’s take the example of Iranian entrepreneurs. In your travels, in your neighborhood, you have most probably met many Persian people, (Iranians). In general, I have found them to be kind, caring, and hardworking people with a deeply entrepreneurial spirit, that has made them successful business people wherever they have landed.
Different But Yet 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 enlightening since 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 percentages of the millennial generation, who comprise a highly educated workforce, regardless of what you may have believed. The majority of university students nowadays are women. 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 an Iran business leader, it soon became clear that business leaders all over the world understand that it is the soft skills like mindset, purpose, emotional intelligence, and vision 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.