Leadership development and social skills

December 2, 2015 by Wally Bock

I recently read a blog post by Irving Wladawsky-Berger titled “The Growing Value of Social Skills.” Here’s the opening paragraph.

“I recently read a very interesting paper, The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market, by Harvard professor David Deming. Deming’s paper shows that over the past several decades, labor markets have been increasingly rewarding social skills, that is, interpersonal skills that facilitate interactions and communications with others. He presents evidence that since 1980, social-skill intensive occupations have enjoyed most of the employment growth across the whole wage spectrum, and that employment and wage growth have been particularly strong in jobs that require both high cognitive and high social skills.”

That matches the message in Geoff Colvin’s excellent book, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will. In fact, Colvin’s basic premise is that it’s our social nature that makes us human and gives us an advantage over machines.

So, OK, social skills and emotional intelligence are important. In fact Daniel Goleman called the ability to “listen, communicate, persuade, collaborate” the must-have leadership skill. How do we make that work with leadership development?

Leadership development for an increasingly automated world

Technology has taken over more and more of the routine things we used to do. And technology increasingly is being used to aid decision making. Our leadership development programs must concentrate on helping leaders learn to use technology wisely and humanely.

Leadership development and a deep dive on people skills

Leaders can learn knowledge skills faster with technology, but social and people skills present a different challenge. Leaders can learn some people skills through role playing and simulation, but mostly they’ll have to learn in the workflow.

That means we need to assure that we teach leaders how to get the most learning out of every day. It also means we must make sure that our coaching and peer support systems are robust and effective.

Leadership development in a brave new world

Social skills will be more and more important in leadership. That’s why they’ll be increasingly important in leadership development.

Additional leadership development reading

From Meghan M. Biro: 5 Social Skills Business Leaders Must Master

“Socially savvy, engaged leaders share a set of skills that help protect their organizations from the havoc of sudden, devastating change. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that change can be healthy — and often it’s necessary. But successful large-scale cultural change requires finesse and an understanding of the ‘human side’ of business.”

From Maynard Brusman: Leadership Development Through Emotional Intelligence and Meditation

“The greatest obstacle to leading others is lack of self-knowledge and inner focus.”

From Andrea Ovans: How Emotional Intelligence Became a Key Leadership Skill

“Anyone trying to come up to speed on emotional intelligence would have a pretty easy time of it since the concept is remarkably recent, and its application to business newer still. The term was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, John D. Mayer of UNH and Peter Salovey of Yale.”

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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