While many people will tell you that hard skills are the most important, without interpersonal skills even the most talented can fail to achieve.
Leaders do not need soft skills, right? Wrong. For those in executive finance jobs technical skills are essential, however, soft skills can transform you from a traditional manager to a superstar leader. But what are soft skills and how can they make the difference?
Like all leadership roles, corporate finance jobs demand interpersonal skills.
Flipping through a leadership development book, you will most probably come across a table comparing “hard skills” and “soft skills”. Typically, hard skills are suppose to provide value, while soft skills are subordinate, inferior and all about feelings.
In the real world, there is nothing soft about the skills needed to understand, relate and lead people. True leadership is thus based on both hard and harder skills.
For those looking to develop their finance careers, the more your roles move towards and involves leadership, the more you will need to be able to focus on blending the occupational and the behavioural, the technical and the personal, the hard and the soft.
Leading teams of the future
One of the recent developments that has taken the commercial world by storm is the virtual team.
As companies expand geographically and telecommuting becomes more common, work groups are being developed that can span entire continents. A virtual team is made up of people from different geographical locations, working together on a common goal.
Virtual teams demand a leader with the right suite of soft skills.
Armed with laptops, Wi-Fi and smart devices, most professionals can do their work from anywhere. However, the success of virtual teams is less about an employee’s ability to work and more about a manager’s ability to lead.
With increased pressure for teams to constantly collaborate and perform out of their skin, executives are looking for leaders with soft skills more and more. Take for instance a survey from Robert Half, which found that the C-suite is looking for employees with communication and problem-solving skills above harder, more technical skills.
Yet leading teams can be compounded when they are comprised of people of different ages, and a diversity of experience and culture. Soft skills are the ones leaders rely on to build bridges that span the gaps between employees.
For financial professionals to get ahead, they need a suite of skills that include both technical and interpersonal. Without these, a talented accountant may be able to create spreadsheets like magic, but fail because he or she is accountable for the failure of the team. By developing soft skills such as communication and problem solving, financial employees can set themselves up for success.
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