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Did you know that the US Army coined the phrase Hard and Soft Skills in the late 1960s? Hard skills were measured using the following three criteria:

  1. Degree of interaction with a machine
  2. Degree of specificity of behavior to be performed
  3. Typical kind of on-the-job situations

Soft skills were considered critically important to the Army. Here are some examples of how the Army assessed soft skills:

  1. Evaluation of a soldier’s morale
  2. Usage of incentives and pressures
  3. Development of a subordinate to take more initiative and responsibility without supervision

Many believe that the term soft skills needs to be changed as it is a misnomer – soft is associated with femininity and weakness. Some renaming suggestions thus far include power, human, people, communication, and emotional intelligence. While we understand the concern, we believe that adding the word “strategic” provides that edge that many feel is missing from the term.

When searching the mighty web for how others define soft skills, we found lists that ranged from three or four to twenty or thirty critical soft skills. As we read these lists, we found that there was a great deal of overlap as well as some outliers. It can be quite overwhelming if you are looking for soft skills development. This is also why it makes renaming them difficult as emotional intelligence, for example, doesn’t encapsulate many of the soft skills identified in these lists.

We felt that the unending lists of soft skills could be assigned, for the most part, to one of the five strategic areas below:

  1. Human Interaction: Positively Managing Impact
  2. Emotional and Social Intelligence: Self-Control, Empathy, and Adaptability
  3. Positive Positional Power: Decisive, Passionate, and Motivational
  4. Sounding Board: Mentoring, Feedback, and Advice
  5. Mental Agility: Analytical, Creative, and Critical Thinking

Each one of these areas has the potential, when developed, to vastly and strategically improve your results and reputation as a leader. Following is an overview of each one.

Human Interaction: Positively Managing Impact

This relates to interpersonal communication, such as influence, negotiation, conflict resolution, diversity and inclusion (D&I), and collaboration. It’s all about being a productive team leader or member, and problem solving from the interpersonal side. Emotional and social intelligence are key to doing this well as people trust those who demonstrate self-control.

Emotional and Social Intelligence: Self-Control, Empathy, and Adaptability

Being able to handle your own strong emotions or those of other people is vital. Self-control, reframing, and the ability to correctly apply Human Interaction skills are all critical. Having a change mindset and being adaptable are must haves. Knowing the locale’s social and cultural etiquette, and understanding the social side of organizational systems provides you with the ability to adapt and be empathic.

Positive Positional Power: Decisive, Passionate, and Motivational

In order to use your positional power positively, you need a deep understanding of the organization’s structure and systems, as well as the industry. All systems! Including the unspoken rules and corporate culture. As a leader, the way you use both your personal and positional power helps to create the culture of the organization. Being appropriately passionate and motivational by correctly applying your Human Interaction skills and Emotional Intelligence drives direction and pulls those around you towards your and the organization’s visions.

Sounding Board: Mentoring, Feedback, and Advice

Read about any of the greatest leaders and you find that they always made time for listening and mentoring. The way you manage the leader-follower relationship is key to your legacy as a leader, as well as to achieving your goals. Using your Human Interaction skills and Emotional Intelligence will enable you to have the impact you need to have in order to build trust.

Mental Agility: Analytical, Creative, and Critical Thinking

The ability to be mentally agile is a must when leading, as creativity and critical thinking are key to solving problems and being innovative. The ability to shift your thinking, admit that you might be wrong, or that you forgot a piece of the puzzle, helps everyone get on the creative-thinking bandwagon. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room or solve world hunger, but you do need to make room for ideas and solutions others may propose. And once again, this cannot be achieved without applying your Human Interaction skills and Emotional Intelligence.

Your ability to positively manage your impact with adept Human Interaction skills and Emotional Intelligence are key to each of the other three areas.

If you’re looking for a place to start – here it is! Strategically increase your abilities to positively manage your impact with your Human Interaction skills and build your Emotional Intelligence, and the other three areas will be a lot smoother!