Soft Skills More Important Than Ever

Workforce (registration required) sums up a new Harvard Business Review (paid registration required) article about leadership and soft skills, reaching the conclusion that to crack the C-suite, “soft skills” like leadership, cross-cultural understanding, and interpersonal intelligence are more important than ever.

“You have to maintain technical skills and abilities,” Boris Groysberg, a HBS professor who co-authored the article, told Workforce. “But if you can grow and develop soft skills to go along with them, then that could be a real recipe for success.”

The study looked at seven C-level jobs: CIO, chief marketing and sales officer, CFO, general counsel, chief supply-chain-management officer, chief human resource officer, and CEO. Back in the day, a person who’d be doing the job of C-whatever was usually just a manager of that “whatever” who had been promoted to the top of that division. But, the study says, companies are increasingly looking for people outside of the division, who may not have all the technical skill sets, in favor of people who understand not just the technical side but business strategy and people.

For CIOs, that means not just technology, but “how it could generate competitive advantage—and more focused on leadership and organizational effectiveness.”

For chief HR officers, that means “technical and functional expertise, but also a grasp of the cultural world in which we live today,” L. Kevin Kelly, another co-author of the paper, told Workforce. What does that mean for CMOs? Or CDOs? We think it means that to truly succeed, people in these roles will need to combine marketing know-how with a badass knowledge of business principles and how to push their teams to do more.

On the other hand sometimes it seems like C-level anythings just spend all day going to meetings. Oh well.