Join Now  |  Member Login  |  Recruiters
Contact Us 800-637-3126
Market Intelligence Market Insights
Published on: Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are Hard or Soft Skills More Important?


One can have the very best technical and functionally specific expertise but cannot be considered a leader without engaging followers, and that is done through effective communication, relationship-building and developing emotional connections.

"I would argue that it is the proficiency in the 'soft' skills like empathy, communication and emotional intelligence that determine whether a leader is even able to successfully employ the 'hard' skills like analysis, risk management and operating efficiencies. You really can't operate efficiently if you can't get the best from your people, and they may not 'hear' you if there's no emotional connection," began one of the discussions within the ExecuNet community.

Striking the right balance between "hard" and "soft" skills is one of the ultimate tests of leadership, and ExecuNet members conveyed their thoughts:

"Managers use what you call hard skills to plan, organize, command and control organizations. This is very different from the role of a leader, who uses personal influence (soft skills) to guide people toward goals."

"I believe that even though a combination of soft and hard skills are required at all stages of a manager's career, the mix changes steadily from being biased toward hard skills initially to soft skills later on."

"I strongly believe that, given a foundational level of hard skills, soft skills are MUCH more important than hard skills relative to an executive's success and the success of their organization."

"In my experience there's nothing soft in soft skills, and they are undervalued in many organizations, resulting in negative effects on the bottom-line."

"In a normal résumé/cover letter/interview, how many hiring managers really screen on soft skills? None, because what candidate has EVER admitted, 'Well, to be honest, I'm a marginal communicator; I'm not great in working with teams;' or 'I think listening skills are overrated.'"

We've collected the best advice, suggestions and tips from senior-level executives in this white paper: Lessons from Leaders: The Value of Hard and Soft Skills. Click here to download it with our compliments and let us know what you think.

| More Subscribe

Robyn Greenspan's avatarRobyn Greenspan
Robyn Greenspan is ExecuNet's Chief Content Officer, where she is responsible for setting and driving the editorial content engagement strategy across the private business network's publications and expert-led programming. She is also a Huffington Post blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @RobynGreenspan

Posted by Cathy Liska
05/11 @ 03:19 PM
This is the reason Coaching Skills for Leaders is the trend now - to develop the soft skills of executives.
Posted by Mahmud Iqbal Baig
04/05 @ 01:16 AM
I agree absolutely with Donald Seise. Well said by him:''It is a balancing act based on day-to-day requirements. Hard skills are goal-based but soft skills drive performance toward those goals. To get employees to drive toward those goals is critical to any executives bottom line.'' All this balancing act of hard and soft skills gives rise to perfection of achievements in any direction.away
Posted by Donald Seise
04/04 @ 11:28 PM
It is a balancing act based on day-to-day requirements. Hard skills are goal-based but soft skills drive performance toward those goals. To get employees to drive toward those goals is critical to any executives bottom line. Team-building has never been more important during these hard economic times. Getting buy-in from the staff on hard-pressed schedules and goals is the only road to achieving those hard-skill goals.
Posted by Phil Konecki
04/03 @ 05:03 PM
One thing I try to instill in my clients - hard skills change, soft skills generally won't. Whatever the hard requirement, working with customers (both internal and external) will always be a requirement for the workplace.
Posted by Kevin Guy
03/29 @ 04:08 PM
Hi Robyn,

It is nice to see this issue spoken about via an executive level forum.

Many companies struggle with facilitating a process of improvement due to too much focus on the technical and not enough on tactical execution.

Developing and implementing a "Management System" that links the company’s, and intra-departmental data and information, to the most effective Supervisor and Management behaviors, skills, and communications…resulting in bottom line operational improvements - is not common. Until that approach becomes more mainstream (aligning enhanced processes and behaviors), companies will struggle with sustaining the right culture and results required in today's economy.


Kevin Guy
Managing Partner
The Powers Company
Posted by Mahmud Iqbal Baig
03/27 @ 01:38 PM
I agree absolutely with Mary McDonald. I have gone through the mill of hard labour on ships and in factories. Consequently, I know the value of balancing hard and soft skills.
Posted by Mary McDonald
03/27 @ 01:21 PM
The Hard Skills are really just the price of admission, or minimum requirements, for a leadership role. Having (or not) the aptitude and charisma to develop and balance in the Soft Skills will ultimately make, break or limit the level of your success.
Posted by Zach Thomas
03/26 @ 10:55 PM
There can be an argument made that they are synonomous. If a leader does not set a yearly goal, reinforce that goal, identify each team members strenghts, and meet regulalry to achieve those goals, can one really be interdenpendant of the other? The art is recognizing an individuals abilites and incorportaing them into your business model.
Posted by Mahmud Iqbal Baig
03/24 @ 03:36 AM
I would say that both hard and soft skills are important for the work meant to be executed, achieved and its expected results. If the nature of the work demands greater acquisition of soft skills, the knowledge and art in that particular direction must be developed. Similarly, hard skills have their own importance against the nature of work desired. The principle must be kept in mind that soft skills and hard skills are interlinked to each other. Hard skills give you a foretaste of the nature and complexities of the work to be performed. Ever increasing production to meet the demand of expanding consumption, regimentation of human labour and technology, has given rise to Human Resource Development as a specialized subject.
Posted by Ronaldo Calayan
03/24 @ 01:14 AM
Hard skills you learn and store in the brain. It is then trained to operate within definite parameters. Soft Skills come also from the brain but they are expressed in unlimited ways. My occupation is running a school. It teaches minds and touches hearts. Schools transform lives. Being also a lawyer, I know that it is hard evidence and the law that win cases. Emotions only come in when proving damages. These involve hard skills. However, to evince the truth from a witness, soft skills like asking the right question that either evokes resentment or agreement are required. Balance between soft skills and hard skills are attained by constant practice. The rewards, though at times intangible, are great. The feeling of achievement in every student who succeeds and in having justice done is nirvana on earth.
Posted by Brian King
03/23 @ 05:45 PM
I would normally say that both skills are equally important. That said, I'd differ to soft skills being the more important of the two.

I've found that you can teach hard skills but teaching soft skills is virtually impossible.
Posted by sham sajal
03/23 @ 04:26 PM
Both hard and soft skills are equally important. As you start from a workman-supervisor....Top executive CEO etc up the ladder the proportion and importance of soft skills increases.

say form 80;20(H/S) to 20%:80% (H/S)

As we have more the personnel in the organization more we need it.

In organization or dept. if nature of work is more team dependent you need more of soft skills.
Posted by Mahmud Iqbal Baig
03/23 @ 03:42 PM
In leadership and in a system of education that produces good leadership both soft and hard skills need to be promoted simultaneously.
Posted by Konstantine Haralampopoulos
03/23 @ 02:43 PM
A leader needs a balance of both such skills in order to be effective and well-rounded.
Posted by Larry
03/23 @ 02:26 PM
Posted by R.Viswanathan
03/23 @ 12:53 PM
I am working as Technical Textile Coating,Carpet Latex Coating,and Hot Melt Lamination,Worked in Kenya(Nairobi)Saudi Arabia,Srilanka.
Posted by Barbara Schwartz
03/23 @ 12:44 PM
Strong soft skills are the differentiator for a good leader. Leaders, teams and projects fail when communications and collaboration are inadequate.
Posted by Ben
03/23 @ 12:29 PM
Hard skills open the door, soft skills keep it open and allow one to lead.
Posted by George
03/23 @ 12:16 PM
In my opinion, the hard skills are key to getting a job. The soft skills are important, too, but the main goal seems to be to fulfill the specific job requirements usually based on functional skills.
Posted by Mahmud Iqbal Baig
03/23 @ 06:39 AM
With highly skilled balancing by educationists and trainers in a system of education - both at school and college - the ability to combine the two at different levels of knowledge application can be developed effectively.
Posted by Rodolfo Acevedo
03/23 @ 05:36 AM
More than hard or soft skills, it is the capability to use any and all skills which necessary to stride ahead.
Posted by Dmitry Tolstogan
03/23 @ 04:20 AM
A specialist in B2B with a combined experience of project - leadership positions for over 10 years. Recently, specialized in the conduct of large-scale projects with key players in the printing market (first introduced to the Russian specialized equipment capable of printing to bring a new level and significantly lower production costs). Implemented the number of major projects for the installation of equipment in the largest printing house in many regions of Russia . Professionally versed in economics and finance (the level of experts - the analyst), know basic operation of the business in the global market. Excellent guided in its industry, to quickly develop new areas, industry and business - direction. I can put on their own management accounting and budgeting for the company. I have experience in building successful companies and their management systems from scratch.Structuring of product and financial flows, capital planning and budgeting, investment projects assessment, procurement and supply chain management. I also have long-term successful experience of managing a team of more than 500 people, building sales organizations.
Posted by V Rajesh
03/23 @ 04:08 AM
More than hard or soft skills, it is the ability to use whatever skills which is important. Many ppl have a wide variety of skills but rarely use the same. In recent book "Out Of Syllabus" a whole host of such simple skills and tools have been detailed which can make a huge difference to a person's life and leadership.
Posted by Mahmud Iqbal Baig
03/23 @ 03:45 AM
Telling 'what I do provision' above insufficiently explains my 40 years' experience in what I have been trying to promote on the lines suggested in your article. I am the Founder & Principal Consultant of a small (but monetarily failed) management consultancy in Pakistan. My early experiences in Germany (1966)- prior to receiving higher education - working on the floor with workers of factories, and even earlier, chipping the floors of the rusted ships commanded by devoted captains, I have made 'hard skills' an important part of educational consultancy under the banner of 'Consultants in the Classroom.'
I couldn't agree with you more when you quote:
'I strongly believe that, given a foundational level of hard skills, soft skills are MUCH more important than hard skills relative to an executive's success and the success of their organization." And "In my experience there's nothing soft in soft skills, and they are undervalued in many organizations, resulting in negative effects on the bottom-line."
Only if we could reorder educational systems world-wide to include hard skills (in practice)at every level - schools, colleges and universities,we can revolutionize HR management and productivity. Time and opportunity demands the whole system of education to be reordered.
Posted by Anil
03/23 @ 03:28 AM
IMO, the relationship between soft skills of the Managers in an organisation and the bottom line is a certain reality. In particular, the way senior executives balance their soft skills with hard skills can make all the difference between a well-led, mature, organisation and an organisation where under achievement is the norm.
Page 1 of 4 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »

Finding new ways to do business is always a challenge, but for success in an ever-changing world, business leaders today must be willing to try new things and remain extremely flexible. Read what some of the world's greatest innovators had to say in this ExecuNet exclusive.

Read More

Like What You’re Reading?

Get access to more actionable insights from top minds in executive leadership and career management

Join Our Executive Community Today

Executive Job Creation Index

Second Quarter Not as Promising But Still Positive

Recruiter Confidence Index

Recruiters Optimistic Job Market Will Improve

Stay Connected

Stay Connected by Email Stay Connected by RSS Stay Connected on Twitter Stay Connected on YouTube
ExecuNet on LinkedIn

Editorial Guidelines

World Business Forum 2011 Featured Blog

World Innovation Forum 2011 Featured Blog

Featured in Alltop