Let’s begin with the basics. Why should someone who thinks of himself or herself as a leader—or who aspires to be a leader—care about words, language patterns, structuring of ideas, eliminating “um’s” and “ah’s” and acquiring a strong physical presence. Aren’t these, after all, “soft skills?”
Yes, and that is exactly what today’s leaders need.
Wharton Professor Adam Grant writes in a LinkedIn article: “It’s getting harder to succeed without soft skills. There’s a premium on coordination, negotiation, persuasion and social perceptiveness.”1 This is a result of automation in the labor market, fewer technical jobs, and the need for more collaboration by people in teams.
The chart below shows that soft skills are taking on much more importance at work. And leaders—of all people—need these skills. They are the ones who spend their days in meetings with people they need to listen to, influence, persuade, and encourage to collaborate. Their day is spent using their soft skills. A CEO, for example, spends a full 85 percent of the time with people, doing just these things. And “busy professionals” spend about 40 percent of their time in meetings, using these same skills.2
My latest book, Impromptu: Leading in the Moment, shows you how to persuade and influence in everyday business situations that take up most of our day: meetings, corridor conversations, elevator chats, one-on-one discussions, and answering questions.
These spontaneous encounters are the stuff of leadership. Moving others in these fleeting encounters will build your reputation and show others that you have the ability to lead in any situation.
Many of my future blog posts will focus on these extemporaneous speaking skills and how to master them. Stay tuned!
- Statistics are from Impromptu: Leading in the Moment, p. 127 by the author.