Why do we call the hardest skills ‘soft’ skills? Let’s call them what they are — leadership essentials
I was at an event this afternoon, focused on the skills individuals and organisations need to thrive in the transition to a net zero, resilient future.
One of the things that stood out for me was the use of the term ‘soft skills’ to describe the non technical skills needed to do a job. These include interpersonal skills, time management, creative thinking and so on.
But when I hear the word ‘soft’, I get the sense that they are fluffy. Nice to have. Easier to master and less valuable than ‘hard’ skills.
But that is absolutely not the case! These skills are essential.
Not only are they essential, but they can be some of the hardest skills to learn and to practice consistently. They will show up differently for different people and it can be difficult to be objective when measuring them.
Somebody may think they have excellent interpersonal skills, but others that interact with them may find them rude or patronising.
Another person might be a highly creative thinker, but in a rigid culture they won’t be appreciated for that and may even be criticised for going beyond conventional ideas.
I can’t help but wonder if calling them soft skills devalues the most important skills the world needs right now.
And if this might have something of a gendered lens, as many of them are more associated with female characterstics, while more technical ‘hard’ skills have more masculine connotations. So I would second the Social Leadership Coach’s call to change this.
These so called soft skills are absolutely the key skills of leadership and should be positioned as such. The hard skills are more tactical skills — the specifics needed to do a particular job.
So let’s rethink what and how we value in people’s skills.
Then perhaps we will have organisations and societies where people feel valued, can combine our unique talents to tackle our biggest shared challenges and better about ourselves and our place in the world as a result.
Read this post and more on my Typeshare Social Blog