MBA Research

Trend #19: Increasing Importance of Soft-skills Leadership

Business Trend

This month’s trend is the increasing importance of soft-skills leadership. Fostering collaboration, developing talent, managing personal growth, communicating clearly, and thinking critically are must-have skills for success in today’s workplace.

Workplace Implications

As Baby Boomers join the ranks of the retired, people are being promoted to fill their roles in organizations. Often, companies promote staff with the best technical skills into those leadership roles and are learning that having great technical skills do not automatically qualify staff for leadership. In fact, staff with the highest level of technical acumen often lack the very skills most needed to lead: collaboration, negotiation, communication, problem-solving, listening, self-awareness, motivation, empathy, social skills, flexibility, optimism, conflict resolution, etc.—the soft skills.

Soft-skill expertise has enduring value throughout a person’s career, while technical skill requirements change due to innovations. Although soft skills are important at all job levels, their importance and complexity increase as a person advances in an organization. After all, for leaders to achieve business goals, they must lead through others and must develop a balance between their technical and soft skills.

Soft skills can be learned and internalized through repeated application and reflection. As a result, businesses are spending more on training that requires use of soft skills in a variety of real-world situations. Staff application of soft skills contributes to a brand’s uniqueness that sets it apart from competitors’ brands.

Classroom Implications

Teachers should help students understand the role of technical skills in getting jobs and the importance of soft skills in career advancement. Due to the increased value businesses are placing on soft skills, teachers should help students highlight their soft skills on their résumés. Students should relate their soft skills to the jobs’ requirements.

Students need opportunities to practice their soft-skills attainment. This can be accomplished through the use of group projects in which students must work together and be accountable for project completion. Projects should allow sufficient time for reflection—what went well and what should be changed.

Another opportunity for practicing soft skills is by having students give peer reviews. Teachers will need to explain how to conduct effective peer reviews so that students learn how to provide constructive feedback to classmates.