Soft Skills: Developing Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

South Africa has a dearth of skills. It’s one of the common reasons given for our economy being in the doldrums, and one of the reasons for a governmental focus on skills development as a key aspect of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. As a result, very many programmes, courses and degrees have been created to counteract this skills shortage, with students and scholars across South Africa being encouraged to focus their energy on learning specific, job related ‘hard skills’ that will make them employable, contributing members of South African society. 

But what of the so-called ‘soft skills’ – those skills far less tangible, but no less necessary for an effective workforce that can contribute towards building your business? Eileen Thornhill, Director of The LLC Academy, a 73.57% Black Owned Level 2 Designated Group Supplier that is Services Seta, QTCO and COMENSA accredited, is of the opinion that these ‘soft skills’ are as important as the far more prioritised hard skills. In fact, the hard skills are almost like a ‘given’ or a starting point.  It’s the soft skills added to these hard skills that give people their edge and enable them to stand a cut above the rest. 

“Soft skills are those aspects of person that make them likeable, easy to work with and excellent communicators,” says Thornhill. “People with well developed soft skills tend to have high emotional intelligence: they are self-aware, self-regulating, personally motivated, and empathetic, and make use of these abilities to build effective, reciprocal relationships with people. They are effective in teams and tend to have a growth mindset.  They focus on building their strengths and managing or outsourcing their weaknesses. The very thing you are not good at may well be somebody else’s strength.   

“Soft skills include adaptability, openness to feedback, active listening and a strong work ethic,” says Thornhill. “All in all, someone with well developed soft skills is definitely someone who you’d want on your team!” 

Much like hard skills, soft skills can be learnt. “The LLC Academy offers a number of programmes that focus extensively on the development of soft skills,” says Thornhill. “For example, our Results based Teaming programme focuses on helping our students to learn to apply the principles for building trust, effective team communication, and mastering conflict – all vital aspects of the good communication necessary to and in an effective team.” 

“It is not enough to be proficient at only the hard or technical skills,” says Thornhill, “You need to develop the soft skills that will enable you to bring the best version of every member of your team to the table, to encourage them to participate and help them to develop and grow themselves as well.” 

“Growing the soft skills to add to the hard skills is absolutely necessary if we are going to develop the leaders that South Africa needs right now, and for our future,” says Thornhill. 

If you are interested in developing both the hard and soft skills of your workforce, and want to develop leaders for the future of South Africa within your business, speak to our course coordinators at The LLC Academy. 

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