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Soft-Skills Training For Leaders

The soft skills can be cultivated by various means including observation, reading, training, experience and practice

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There is a growing significance attached to soft skills globally. As the war for talent is rising, the corporate world realized the significance of leadership development training and soft skills training programs to emphasize on interpersonal skills and build leaders. With the exit of baby boomers, there is a shortage of leadership talent ready in the leadership pipeline as the Gen Y is not prepared to take up the organizational challenges. Therefore, there is an urgent need to provide leadership development training and soft skills training for leaders including C suite level. The significance of soft skills increases as leaders grow from operational to strategic level of management. Leaders at the senior levels and C suite level focus on leading the people. In fact, there are three skills essential for leaders at all levels - technical skills, human skills and conceptual skill. As the leaders enter into senior and C suite level, there is a need to have more of conceptual skills and less of technical skills while the need for human skills remains constant at each level of management. The human skills can be compared with soft skills and technical skills with hard skills. In this regard, let us briefly understand what are soft and hard skills.

Soft and Hard Skills

Soft skills are people skills and behavioral skills. They are the skills, abilities and traits related to personality, attitude and behavior. They are the ability to communicate with others in a polite, pleasing and polished language. They help execute tasks effectively without any conflict. Since the days of command-and-control don't work any more, there is growing emphasis on soft skills training for leaders at all levels to get the tasks executed effectively. Presently employees prefer to work in collegial ambience than in command-and-control ambience. They appreciate to be treated as partners for progress rather than the so called traditional leader-follower hierarchy. Hence, there is a growing need on soft skills. On the other hand, hard skills are about your technical competence and expertise. Precisely, it is about your domain expertise. Many professionals are experts in their hard skills but they find it tough to get along with others. Especially these are the days of knowledge workers. Some of them are found to be competent jerks. Hence, leaders must be equipped with soft skills to handle others including competent jerks. Therefore, we can describe that soft skills as the effective presentation of hard skills.

Significance of Soft Skills

The soft skills can be cultivated by various means including observation, reading, training, experience and practice. They can be mostly acquired by training programs. There are several advantages of acquiring soft skills. They equip with empathy and communication skills. It decreases attrition and engages employees effectively. It promotes fraternity and camaraderie leading to improved organizational performance. Overall, it improves organizational bottom lines to achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness.

Most C-level leaders don't have knowledge of all domains. They utilize others' expertise and align it with organizational goals. They make decisions by consulting their team members. Therefore, soft skills help leaders a lot to make decisions successfully.

List of Soft Skills for Leaders

Here are some of the soft skills needed for C level leaders: human skills, conceptual skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, problem solving skills, time management skills, analytical skills, critical thinking skills, leadership skills, decision-making skills, negotiation skills, team building skills, trouble shooting skills, conflict management skills, change management skills, cross-cultural skills, presentation skills, listening skills, entrepreneurial skills, risk management skills, empathy, flexibility, adaptability, and organizational politics to name a few.

Importance of Soft Skills Training for Leaders
During my leadership development training programs some of the senior leaders opined that there is no need to provide soft skills training to leaders. They think that they have already acquired soft skills from their experience. Also, I found some of the senior leaders mistaking soft skills for communication skills and emotional intelligence. In fact, there is an urgent need for leaders at all levels to understand the actual definition of soft skills and acquire them to grow as successful leaders.

I earned my PhD in soft skills and authored five books on it. Hence, I love to share my knowledge on soft skills as follows. Some leaders think that hard skills alone matter a lot for professional advancement. In fact, there must be a judicious blend of hard and soft skills to survive and succeed at the workplace. As one scales higher positions there is more need for soft skills and less need for hard skills.

Presently services sector dominate the world. The knowledge workers are mostly associated with services sectors. They appreciate working in partnership rather than in traditional command-and-control leadership ambience. Hence, to lead knowledge workers, leaders must be equipped with soft skills. There are a number of leadership styles, and leaders adopt these styles as per the situation which is known as situational leadership style. This style demands more of soft skills than hard skills. There is a war for talent globally due to the exit of baby boomers. The Gen Y is not ready with leadership skills and abilities. They are unable to undertake leadership roles and responsibilities. Therefore, there is an urgent need to recruit the right talent, train and retain them in the leadership pipeline to avert organizational eventuality. It also calls for soft skills. Above all, the expectations and aspirations of all stakeholders are rising rapidly, and to lead them effectively, there is need for soft skills training for leaders.

Soft Skills Training for Leaders
While imparting soft skills training to leaders, it is essential to emphasize on behavioral training. Mere case study discussion alone doesn't help as soft skills are behavioral skills. There is need to change the behavior in leaders. To bring the behavioral improvement in leaders, it is essential to emphasize more on role-plays, business games, debates, group discussions and outward-bound training followed by constructive feedback. Such type of behavioral training helps convert knowledge into skills and abilities effectively. It helps leaders identify their blind spots and overcome them effectively. Additionally, it builds confidence in leaders.

Soft skills provide competitive edge in this cut-throat competitive world. They are always asset to the employees. They are required from janitorial staff to CEOs. Hence, it is essential to provide soft skills training to all people from peon to principal and from janitor to chief executives to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Additionally, keeping in view of the rapid changes in technology and the rising expectations of all stakeholders including employees, there is an urgent need to impart soft skills training to leaders at all levels.

"In today's competitive environment, it is not enough to be the best in your field, intellectually. Competency is only half of what you need to climb the ladder of success. The other half is the softer side of you - it's that part of you that will be liked, admired, trusted and remembered." - Carole Nicola Ides

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Professor M.S. Rao

Professor M.S.Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of ‘Soft Leadership’ and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with 35 years of experience and the author of 30 books including the award-winning ‘21 Success Sutras for CEOs’

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