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March 2014
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TD Magazine

Soft Skills for Leaders

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Soft Skills for the Future

Paula
Although organizations always have been searching for the right way to develop future leaders, leadership development seems to be more complex than it has ever been. The leadership articles in this issue focus on soft skills needed to successfully lead in this new global work environment—clearly stating that leadership is more than just knowing an organization's business, thinking strategically, and understanding the business world.

The articles in this month's issue highlight the need for leaders to address others' personal needs; show others respect, listen to people and demonstrate that you hear them; attain mutual trust, promote ownership and accountability for one's work and responsibilities; and provide support to achieve goals.

As workplaces move from the "Information Age into the Conceptual Age, creative thinking will become as essential as logical thinking," Lisa Bodell writes in her article. Soft skills—such as listening, creativity, agility, and problem solving—are becoming as important as expertise and technical competency.

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"Like the traveler in an unfamiliar land grappling with a language barrier, a leader can be just as disoriented if the organization doesn't have a common leadership 'language'—a set of leader behaviors that transcend, and are reinforced at, all levels. Such a language ... is critical to helping leaders succeed. But more importantly, it creates the most productive and engaging work environment so their organization is better able to meet its most pressing business needs," authors Jim Concelman and Mark Phelps write in their feature article.

The authors are not talking about a "language based on strategy, business plans, or operations, but rather a language that speaks to how people interact as they perform their jobs—a language of empathy, involvement, trust, sharing, and support."

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The cover article specifically examines the skills that women need to advance to executive roles within major companies. As Lynda McDermott notes, "Research indicates there are three must-have leadership skills that women leaders need to master to get the roles and positions best suited to their skills, interests, abilities, and dreams: Know your career goals, establish a plan to meet those goals, and learn to promote your value."

Leaders in the 21st century require myriad skills to be successful, and those skills are becoming more diverse every day. It is imperative that training professionals incorporate many of these soft skills into leadership programs for high potentials. And for those who are already leaders, coaching is a great way to help them take a hard look at how they are leading others in their organizations.

Paula Ketter
Editor, T+D
pketter@astd.org

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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