Hard vs. Soft Skills: Finding The Right Balance For CEOs

crossword 14A recent survey addressing the main concerns of CEOs revealed that they see working on “soft skills” such as compassion and motivation as less important than improving “hard skills” like planning and conflict management. While most CEOs maintain that they welcome outside coaching aimed at improving their personal development, only about a third actually receive advice. We asked Zintro experts to discuss the balance leaders should strive for.

Michael Snyders, a leadership management training and recruitment specialist, feels “the competencies for each, leadership (soft skills) and management (hard skills), are quite different and it is important to have a balance of both. Management competencies will determine the direction and set the pace for the organizations achievements; whereas leadership competencies applaud the spirit, inspire and promote success towards the [aforementioned] direction.”

“With that said,” Snyders continues, “the best answer to this concern is a unique for each leader. Every leader has their strengths and challenges, so start with developing a strong awareness of how strengths and challenges fit within the competencies required for the role. Once this is understood, focus on developing your strengths to their very best, and surround yourself with others that compensate for your challenges.”

James Pereira, who specializes in human performance management and leadership skills, believes “if you take a step back, you’ll realize that compassion, motivation and conflict management can be lumped up as part of coaching skills. A great coach has to have compassion, empathy and of course motivate his or her staff.” Pereira points out that “the finding that most CEOs desire coaching is excellent news; [it means] these CEOs could be champions of driving the coaching culture in their organizations,” and explains that one of the main reasons “only 30% actually have a personal coach, is because of [perceived] time pressure. They may be more welcoming of coaching if they realize that in order to be effective, they need only be with a coach for about an hour or two per month: This can even be done via phone and Skype.” According to Pereira, “as a person moves higher up an organization, their focus should turn towards soft skills over hard skills. For CEOs the optimal ratio should be 80:20 or 90:10.”

Betty Doo, a personality assessment expert and executive leadership coach, asserts that “rather than provide a balance between hard and soft skills, what good coaching can do for leaders is to help them understand their strengths and shortcomings, so they can lever the former and address potential obstacles to their success.” Doo thinks, “many CEOs who say they would welcome outside coaching to improve personal development may be hesitant because they do not have a clear idea of exactly what coaching can do for them. Talking with CEOs and other executives who have had coaches themselves may help them see the value in this approach to leadership development.”

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By Gabriela Meller 

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