Are the Soft Leadership Skills Hard?

It’s 2020 and everyone is talking about the soft leadership skills essential for the future! Given that many leaders roll their eyes when mentioning soft skills, let’s take a look at what might be required in order to understand and embody them.
According to LinkedIn the top five are:

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence

I might add resilience and flexibility or the ability to read trends. I’m sure many of you have your own choices.

We all know that no one can think their way to these skills. It takes practice and practice takes time and discipline. In a world that desperately wants simple, brain-based solutions and mistrusts the body, these are all body-based capabilities. We would like to do everything by brain and thinking, simpler, yet it takes the body and changing behavior to practice. To have emotional intelligence, for example, one has to feel and emphasize. Creativity requires the senses and firing of all brain networks not just the narrow problem-solving ones. We even have body-based language and metaphors for resilience. Metaphors like “we need to take the punches and get up again” or “we need to roll with it”. Adaptability requires the control of coming back to center of gravity in our body.

Then again, the five LinkedIn skills depend on each other. It is hard to be persuasive or collaborate without emotional intelligence. Notice, I said the ability to read trends. Read means sensing and listening to the gut and having creativity and adaptability. The gut actually has a huge number of neurons feeding information to the head-brain.

I’d say our resistance to listening to the body and being bodily self-aware is what makes these capabilities hard to have. We are born with some of the skills mentioned above but learn to shut them down or out as we grow because they get a bad reaction or we gravitate to the brain and thinking more and more for survival.

So how do we get back to that wonderful curiosity we had as a child or how we could play for hours learning and growing next to our playmates. That time when we could just feel that Mom was happy or angry with us! Some suggest spend time in nature and beginning to feel your body again. Some say meditate and become mindful of body and environment. Some say breathe some big breaths when walking into a business meeting. Some say find your center and how different it feels to be there as opposed to when you feel out of sorts or life is chaotic and then practice getting back to center when knocked off by the grabs of life. Some say have the discipline to take some reflective time every day.

Soft skills will always be hard when we try to ignore how important our bodies are to having them or refuse to practice listening to our bodies.

Be sure to check out Linda’s new white paper: Leadership at the Edge of Business.

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