Hard skills vs soft skills

The argument about which skills are more important or necessary is as old as the argument about whether great leaders are born or developed.

Both sides have compiled convincing arguments, but throughout the thirty plus years, I’ve been working with personal and professional leaders something is glaringly obvious: Those who want to reach the top are willing and committed to doing whatever it takes to get to there.  In today’s business and leadership environment that means developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence, communication and conflict resolution—so-called “soft skills.”

Hard skills can get you there—soft skills keeps you there

We have all grown up with a hard skills emphasis on a post-secondary education, and although there is no doubt that this is very useful, there are other vital factors to be considered.

Just for a moment be really honest and consider this: Imagine that you have an executive opening in your organization and you have two applicants for a position. One applicant has been in the post-secondary educational systems for six years and has run labs with other students in the program. This person also graduated with honors. The other applicant has hands-on industry experience, gone through its evolution and successfully led teams from various backgrounds/ specialties throughout that same six years.

With the limited information, you know which candidate is a better fit for the position? If you are like most effective leaders you would likely say the second candidate for many reasons, not least of all the savings in training and development. Let’s put even that to the side for a moment and ask; which of the two is likely to have had to learn the people skills needed for them to lead an executive position?


What those committed individuals going to the next level understand is;

Hard skills may get you to the top, but it’s soft skills that will keep you there and make sure that you are not alone when you arrive!

Hard skills may get you to the top, but it’s soft skills that will keep you there and make sure that you are not alone when you arrive! Click To Tweet

Those who embrace this idea are the leaders who become the heroes who can and will, overcome any obstacle, with time.

The world of business and leadership has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years. The ruthless dictatorial style of leadership that dominated the past is on life support and about to take its final breath. The new generation of leaders understands that business and success are people driven. Not only do they use the latest technologies and strategies to disrupt their industries, they also recognize something old-school leaders never truly grasped: Soft skills make the most impact on your bottom-line.

Lacking soft skills is expensive

The American workforce has found that just 30 percent of the American workforce is “engaged and inspired” at work, with the other 70 percent either disengaged or miserable. According to a 2013 global Gallup research project: ‘Managers from hell’ cost the US between $450 billion to $550 billion annually. “Gallup research also shows that these “managers from hell” are creating active disengagement Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton chalked the disengagement levels up to these poor managers.

“When leaders in the United States of America — or any country for that matter — wake up one morning and say collectively, “Let’s get rid of managers from hell, (the research shows that the managers (and leaders) from hell and the ones who lack the soft/people skills and who are entirely focused on hard skills and results) … double the number of great managers and engaged employees, and have those managers lead based on what actually matters,” everything will change,” he added.

“The country’s employees will be twice as effective, they’ll create far more customers, companies will grow, spiraling healthcare costs will decrease, and desperately needed GDP will boom like never before.”

The biggest obstacle

The outstanding leaders of today and tomorrow are the ones who are the most committed to self-awareness and self-development. The reasons are simple: they are better with people and they understand that if there is a business obstacle to overcome, it is overcome in the mind of the leader first.

Let’s take the example of Iranian business people. In your travels, in your neighborhood, you have no doubt met many Persian people, (Iranians). By and large, I have found them to be kind, caring and hardworking people with a deeply entrepreneurial spirit that has made them successful business people wherever they have landed.
Different But the Same

Recently I had the honor of speaking with a highly successful business leader from Iran who has invited me to speak to 700 business leaders in the capital city Tehran at The 9th Annual World Management Forum. Our initial conversation was deeply revealing because it showed me that business leaders face the same challenges wherever they are in the world.


Tehran is a sophisticated modern city with 16 million person population in its greater metro area. It has one of the highest populations of the millennial generation, and despite what you may have believed, a highly educated workforce. Women now comprise the majority of students at the university. But Iran is also a highly sanctioned country with a government that may care more about an ideology than it does about assisting you with business.

Think about the challenges you face in doing business today, and now imagine what it would be like to face those challenges in Tehran. In my conversation with the Iran business leader, it soon became clear that business leaders all over the world understand that it is the soft skills of mindset, purpose, emotional intelligence and vision are what it takes to succeed in an ultra-competitive business world—no matter where in the world you are.

Tomorrow’s champions

One of the reasons I love serving in the world of business is because today’s champions of personal growth are the business leaders who will dominate over the next decade! And that means utilizing soft skills to maintain the most profitable.

By the way, did you know that discipline doesn’t work well when it comes to leadership? Find out what does:

I trust that you found this article valuable. If so feel free to send this to your friends. I eagerly anticipate your feedback and comments. Please share, like and comment below!

With gratitude,


Dov Baron, Expert on Leadership, presents his Authentic Leadership Matrix!

My Authentic Leadership Matrix is free at this link! Why? Because one of the questions I’m most often asked is; What authentic leadership is and how do we define it? As a result, with years of experience and extensive requests, I created Authentic Leadership Matrix. It’s designed to give you a clear process of how to perform in each of the five main areas required to become a world-class authentic leader. Start your yes and no evaluation to discover your leadership traits here: http://matrix.fullmontyleadership.com

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