There is more to leadership and business than hard skills, like being an expert in Excel or using statistical models. There are the soft skills, like people skills, social skills, communication skills, and other less measurable practices that are every bit as important as accounting or data analysis. Many of the most successful companies have accelerated their progress by focusing on these skills. Here are some of the most prominent soft skills examples that have led to powerful results.
Daily execution of practicing consistent, reliable, predictable, effective, thoughtful, compassionate, and yes, even courteous communication.
-Melissa Reiff, CEO of The Container Store, defines the brand's core value of "Communication is Leadership"
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are a combination of social, emotional, character, and personality skills that enable people to navigate the workplace, accomplish their goals, and be good leaders. They do not depend on acquired knowledge, but how one deals with people, behaves in workplace settings, and uses common sense. So hard skills vs. soft skills, what's the difference? While these skills may not be as quantifiable with a test score or a certificate, they are every bit as important as hard skills.
Soft Skills Examples
Many leaders have done an amazing job at embracing and applying soft skills, allowing their companies to thrive where others have failed. Below are four exemplary soft skills examples:
Communication and Leadership
At The Container Store, a retail chain specializing in storage and organization products, CEO Melissa Reiff instituted a policy known as “Communication is leadership.” This core value instills an active daily practice of communication for everyone at the company. By creating a culture of communication, Reiff ensured that team members felt they were a vital part of the company’s success. The company has consistently been listed as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Through the years, the ubiquitous cloud-based instant messaging and communication tool, Slack, and its CEO, Stewart Butterfield, have been an example of resilience. Butterfield started Slack as a small online tool for the development of a single video game, but quickly saw the opportunity to grow into an enterprise software system that has revolutionized modern companies’ communication.
That journey was not without some bumps in the road, as server and bandwidth issues caused major setbacks as the platform took off in its early days. By staying consistent and not buckling under the pressure, Butterfield and the Slack team took what started as a makeshift side project and turned it into a $15 billion business.
Another great soft skills example is the online payment company Stripe and CEO Patrick Collison. Collison has proven that a focus on the soft skill of responsiveness can be a game-changer for businesses. What began as just a product feature, the ability to respond quickly to user concerns became a core company value. Collison and Stripe have instilled a culture of responsiveness in all levels of the company, making leaders able to address issues faster and more effectively. As a result, Stripe is now one of the most used online point-of-sale companies in the world.
Less DIY, more delegation.
-Andy Rachleff, CEO of Wealthfront
This online investment startup, Wealthfront, has taken on delegation as its byword: “less DIY, more delegation.” Cofounder and CEO Andy Rachleff encourages this freedom for teams to hand off tasks to the people who are more competent and capable of taking care of them, instead of isolating executives in silos, allowed them to prosper, growing from $93 million in assets in 2013 to $11.4 billion in 2019.
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Cover Photo Credit: Quartz