It’s critical to nurture strong leaders with ‘soft skills’

It’s critical to nurture strong leaders with ‘soft skills’
Chris Blair, CEO at 21st Century

Harnessing the power of Power Skills and Leadership

Chris Blair, CEO at 21st Century explains the importance of this skill

“In today’s fast-paced, globalised economy, companies must constantly adapt and innovate to stay ahead of the competition. The most valuable asset of any organization is its talent – individuals with the power skills and leadership qualities necessary to drive growth and success. As businesses in South Africa navigate a challenging landscape marked by political uncertainty, economic instability, and social disparities, it is more critical than ever for organisations to cultivate and nurture strong leaders who can steer their teams towards success. In this article, we explore the importance of power skills and leadership in fostering talent, and how they contribute to a company’s competitive edge in the marketplace.

“Power skills, the foundation of success, are often referred to as “soft skills,” and are a combination of personal attributes and interpersonal skills that enable individuals to work effectively with others, solve problems, and adapt to change (Dugan, 2021). These skills encompass communication, collaboration, critical thinking, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, among others. In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected and complex both from a communication and technology point of view, power skills are essential for navigating the challenges that come with an exponentially evolving business landscape.

“Soft skills have become increasingly important in today’s workforce because they enable employees to navigate complex and dynamic work environments more effectively than hard skills alone. While hard skills are still essential for carrying out technical tasks, power skills are what enable individuals to excel in their roles by fostering strong relationships, problem-solving, and adaptability (Robles, 2012).

“For example, strong communication skills are vital for ensuring that teams can work together seamlessly and effectively. A skilled communicator can articulate their thoughts clearly and concisely, while also actively listening and responding to feedback from others. This promotes a collaborative environment that encourages innovation and the sharing of ideas. Another power skill, emotional intelligence, allows employees to understand and manage their emotions and the emotions of others. This is crucial for conflict resolution and building trust among colleagues. Lastly, adaptability is a key power skill that allows employees to embrace change, learn from new experiences, and evolve in response to new challenges

“Among power skills, leadership stands out as the most crucial for success and is the ultimate power skill. Leaders possess the unique ability to inspire, motivate, and empower others to achieve their best. They are visionaries who can see the bigger picture and strategise to achieve long-term goals, while also being able to empathise with their team members and address individual needs. Effective leaders are adaptable, agile, and possess a growth mindset, enabling them to learn from mistakes and continually evolve to meet the demands of their environment (Bennis, 2009).

“Leadership stands out as the ultimate power skill because it encompasses a range of soft skills that are crucial for guiding and motivating teams to achieve their goals. Leaders must be able to communicate a clear vision, inspire their team, and make strategic decisions in the face of uncertainty – something essential- for navigating life and business in South Africa.

“For instance, a great leader must have the ability to delegate tasks effectively, recognising each team member’s strengths and assigning responsibilities accordingly. This not only optimises productivity but also fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment among employees. Furthermore, leaders must be skilled in conflict resolution, addressing disagreements or disputes in a fair and empathetic manner to maintain a positive and harmonious work environment. Another example of strong leadership is the ability to provide constructive feedback, helping team members identify areas for improvement while also recognizing and celebrating their successes. This approach fosters a culture of continuous growth and development, ensuring that both the individual and the organisation can adapt and succeed in the face of changing circumstances (Northouse, 2018).

“What is the way forward for companies to empower talent in South Africa? To foster a strong talent pool equipped with power skills and leadership qualities, South African companies must invest in continuous learning and development. This can be achieved through various methods, including mentorship programs, leadership development workshops, and on-the-job training (Bower, 2021). Additionally, creating a supportive work environment that encourages open communication, collaboration, and the sharing of ideas can help employees to develop and hone their power skills.

“Furthermore, in the South African context, it is essential for organisations to address the social disparities that can hinder equal access to opportunities. By actively working towards creating an inclusive and diverse workplace, companies can tap into a wider pool of talent and ensure that they are nurturing the best and brightest leaders of tomorrow (Nkomo, 2020). One example of this is implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as targeted recruitment programs, unconscious bias training, and mentorship schemes aimed at supporting underrepresented groups. These initiatives can help break down barriers to entry and promote a more equitable work environment, ultimately empowering a diverse range of individuals to succeed and lead (Hunt, Layton & Prince, 2015).

“In conclusion, the challenging and competitive landscape that defines the South African business environment, companies must prioritise developing and nurturing talent with the power skills and leadership qualities necessary to succeed. By fostering a culture of learning, growth, and inclusivity, organizations can not only equip their employees with the skills needed to navigate complex challenges but also attract and retain top talent. Ultimately, investing in power skills and leadership development is the key to unlocking the full potential of South Africa’s workforce and driving long-term success in an increasingly competitive global market.”

This article is based on research conducted by 21st Century, one of the largest remuneration consultancies in Africa. Please contact us at [email protected] for any further information.

Written by:

Chris Blair, B.Sc. Chem. Eng., MBA – Leadership & Sustainability, CEO of 21st Century, [email protected]