We’ve been guilty of this often enough in the past, and of course it is a convenient “shorthand” phrase for a variety of personal and non-technical skills. But the word “soft” implies that they are less important than so called hard skills (technical and professional expertise) and suggests that they are easy to master. If anything, the opposite is true.

David Bodanis makes this point very clearly in his excellent book  “The Art of Fairness”. David Bodanis, speaker, writer, consultant, and futurist uses a selection of great stories – including the construction of the Empire State Building – to dispel two myths: first, the idea that “Nice Guys Finish Last” and second, that being fair, and leading with “soft” skills, means being weak and accommodating.

This is why we think “soft skills” is the wrong term for the people skills that enable great leaders to flourish. Bodanis’ examples of leaders are anything but weak or soft, driving hard for high performance – but doing so with empathy, generosity and trust. These “People Skills” aren’t easy to develop – they come with training and with experience, just like the technical and professional expertise that underpin businesses in telecoms, infrastructure, petrochemicals, and other complex sectors. Whatever term you choose – interpersonal skills, behavioural skills, emotional intelligence, or our preference, people skills – they are a vital “qualification” for leaders who want to get the best out of the people they lead.

And the new generations now in the workforce expect them to be part of the curriculum as they embark on their career development programmes.

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