Power Skills are the Future of Your Career – Just ask HR or Your CEO

According to PWC’s 2023 CEO Survey, 52% of CEOs see a lack of skills being a major challenge to their company’s profitability and Gartner’s 2023 reports that human resource assumptions in workforce planning (WFP) no longer hold in today’s environment.

Leader and manager effectiveness is essential to the future of work, and yet HR Leaders know that a new approach is required.

Soft Skills and Hard Skills

Traditionally job requirements had been divided into soft skills and hard skills.

Hard skills are technical or scientific knowledge that has been obtained through practical learning methods, such as memory or training. Hard skills are essential to certain roles, if you are a heart surgeon or a pilot, there are some very specific skills required to do your job without killing people.

Hard skills become obsolete over time. When was the last time you wrote in cursive, found information using a library card catalog, or navigated with a map and compass?

With AI and robotics, many hard skills are already being replaced by machines, and automated heart surgery and pilotless planes are no longer unbelievable.

Soft skills are non-tangible, they are behaviors based on mindset and experience, and so are harder to measure. This does not diminish their impact. However knowledgeable a manager is, if they lack empathy, or an ability to communicate, their effectiveness is significantly diminished.

Because you can train and measure hard skills and award a certificate, they have seemed more important than skills that are labeled soft, but soft skills are the future, and they have had a brand makeover as, Power Skills.

Power Skills

The PWC survey reveals that CEOs looking to the future are concerned about changing customer demands, technology disruptors, supply chain disruption, transition to new energy sources, and new players from adjacent industries.

To successfully face these challenges, companies are going to need managers who are technically competent and have the power skills to be human-centric while delivering results. They need a New Leadership Playbook. Let’s look at some power skills you can develop through awareness, intention, coaching, and mentoring.

1. Self-leadership

You can’t lead others unless you first lead yourself. Everybody can be a self-leader but not everyone practices developing their self-awareness, exercising self-regulation, and applying self-learning.

Self-leadership is the number one power skill because by taking ownership of your own intention, feelings, and actions you are the driver of life and career, rather than a passenger.

As you develop a greater self-awareness you become more aware of the needs, wants, and beliefs of others and can therefore build greater connections.

As you self-regulate your own emotions and behaviors, you will project confidence and clarity, resulting in executive presence.

As you become open to feedback, adaptive and agile, your self-learning will prepare you for whatever disruption comes your way.

2. Conversation

Leadership is a conversation, one-to-one, or one-to-many. These conversations can happen in person or through Zoom, Teams, Slack, or another digital channel. In the past, communication was a favorite soft skill training, but this has only led to people broadcasting rather than engaging in authentic conversations.

When you have a conversation, you can listen to the thoughts and feelings of your audience, demonstrate empathy, and be adaptable to their needs whilst staying on purpose.

There are a number of conversations that contribute to the power skills of a leader. The New Leadership Playbook contains twelve such conversations that every manager must master, from articulating the Why to Coaching.

3. Critical Thinking

In 2021 McKinsey Global Institute looked at what mindsets and skills would be required for the future of work. They identified 56 deltas of which, not surprisingly, 25% were about digital fluency. What is more surprising is that 25% were self-leadership skills, and 25% were interpersonal skills which could be categorized as effective conversations. The final 25% are cognitive skills such as critical thinking.

The world needs more people who can ask the right questions, do structured problem-solving, logical reasoning, and understand biases. These power skills combined with creativity and imagination can provide new solutions and tell a new story.

4. Storytelling

From our earliest human origins, we told stories to educate, navigate, give purpose, and leave a legacy. This oldest of power skills has never lost its importance and in an age of ‘death by PowerPoint’, it is one to master. Consider the success of TED and its spin-off TEDx with the tagline Ideas Worth Sharing.  The format is to take a single idea and wrap it into a story.

I can share many stories of leaders whom I have coached to ditch their PowerPoint presentations and engage their people with a story. Even when sharing financial data, every number tells a story and your ability to tell that story will make the difference.

5. Building Diverse and Remote Teams

If storytelling is the oldest power skill, then teambuilding comes a close second. Our ancestors built teams from their own tribes but today, the power skill is to build teams of people from diverse backgrounds, disciplines, and locations. Achieving this requires the application of the first four power skills that I shared.

You will need to role model self-leadership and encourage your team members to practice self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-learning. You will augment this with effective conversations, and work together using critical thinking. The team will begin to function as the members buy into the story that you have shared.

In Conclusion

“Hard Skills are easy to train,
Soft skills are hard to learn”

For 25 years of working with individuals and companies to develop leadership skills, I have been articulating this maxim. I have been asked to train managers in various aspects of leadership, communication skills, decision-making, coaching, and mentoring.

You don’t learn leadership in a classroom, you develop it through experience, and thorough debriefing of decisions and actions. Yes, models and frameworks are useful, but the real transformation occurs when the individuals get the revelations from stepping back from their own programming and seeing they have a choice.

In my 2012 book Self Leadership: How to Become a more successful efficient and effective leader from the inside out, and occasionally in my keynote speeches, I talk about chess as a metaphor for leadership.

To master chess, you must become aware of your own biases, regulate your emotions, and pay attention to your opponent. These are power skills that you develop by analyzing your past games.

Thus the key to developing your power skills is to adopt this maxim:

“There is no failure, only feedback for future actions”





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