The Importance of Soft Skills for Business Leaders

Companies are placing more trust in technology tools that use data to automate business processes, creating demand for leaders who possess “soft skills.” Professionals with “soft” skills along with advanced business knowledge and technical expertise have the advantage in the competition for jobs and promotions. An advanced business degree can prepare them with these abilities.

Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, went so far as to say that the value of skills that automated data systems cannot perform — critical thinking, for instance, and interpersonal communication — will have a fundamental impact on career markets.

“I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there are for programming,” Cuban told Forbes magazine. The magazine calls personal attributes “power skills,” arguing “soft” mistakenly suggests they are simple to master when, in fact, they are hard-won business-critical leadership characteristics.

What Power Skills Do Successful Business Leaders Have?

While automated data systems’ capacity for collecting, organizing and analyzing data are essential to a business’s success, they cannot replace a leader’s ability to inspire people to find creative uses for the machine output.

Leaders Edge cites projections that Millennials and Generation Z members will make up more than half the workforce soon. These younger workers value a workplace culture that is collaborative and not hierarchal, involves them in decision-making and offers opportunities for education and advancement.

“They want to feel like they belong, to feel valued and to work in a supportive, culturally compatible environment,” the article notes, adding support for an employee-centric culture flows from “soft skills.”

How Does Emotional Intelligence Support Business Success?

A soft skill that has a significant impact on individual performance, emotional intelligence comprises a person’s ability to:

  • Understand their own emotions and how they affect others
  • Recognize triggers for their positive and negative emotions
  • Maintain a reasonable sense of their abilities and worth to the organization
  • Think and act with optimism
  • Seize opportunities to contribute to the greater good

“The growing base of research consistently finds a powerful relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness,” it notes.

On the other hand, unsuccessful business leaders who are unaware of their own emotions and how they affect others cannot understand that failure results in a disjointed, non-collaborative workplace.

 How Do Communication Soft Skills Shape Workplace Culture?

Deakin Co. refers to a McKinsey & Co. analysis that found effective business communication enriches employee engagement which, in turn, supports collaboration and boosts overall productivity by 25%.

Effective business leaders use communication power skills to create channels for information exchange via face-to-face interaction, video and teleconferencing, email and project management platforms — each of which requires its own communication style.

“If problems arise, open and constructive communication can be used to realign your team with your strategic goals,” Deakin says.

What Value Do Businesses Place of Critical-Thinking Power Skills?

An American Management Association survey found that leaders not only named critical-thinking skills as the highest-rated competency for employees at all levels, but they are also the foundation for communication, collaboration and creative thinking.

“Employees need to be able to think fast and smart — often in situations that are complex, uncertain, and where no effective policy or procedures exist. That makes critical thinking a real necessity,” the survey report noted.

Regardless of people calling them “soft skills,” “power skills” or “people skills,” these aptitudes complement technical expertise, knowledge and quantifiable abilities and understanding. Business leaders who augment their hard skills with emotional intelligence and abilities to think critically and communicate can foster a more productive, motivated and creative workplace.

How Do Business Professionals Refine Their Soft Skills?

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) curriculum offered online by Radford University offers business leaders opportunities to develop technical and soft skills that enable them to:

  • Gain insights into human performance
  • Explore practical strategies for increasing employee satisfaction
  • Develop critical and creative-thinking skills to reduce uncertainty in decision-making

The AACSB-accredited MBA online program bridges theory and practice through experiential learning that provides graduates with an advantage in the competition for leadership positions and advancement in management roles throughout business organizations.

Learn more about Radford University’s Master of Business Administration online program.

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