5 Hard and Soft Skills That Set Successful Business Leaders Apart

by Darwin on March 2, 2020

Every business leader is different. And while there are plenty of unique personality traits and skills, there are also some common threads that exist from person to person. In 2020 and beyond, there are a few hard and soft skills that matter more than most. Let’s highlight a few of them:

1.     Written Communication

Writing is a skill that will never go out of fashion, yet has mysteriously disappeared from modern education. Few young people come out of high school or college with the ability to write well. They may have been versed on technical terms like prepositions, clauses, and subject-verb agreement – all of which are important – but nobody has ever taught them how to put together a coherent argument or persuasive statement.

If you want to set yourself apart in the business world, you need to become better at written communication. Learn how to organize your thoughts, structure your arguments, and use the appropriate words to get your thoughts across. Doing so will enhance your content marketing, email marketing, organizational leadership, sales efforts, and everything else in between.

2.     Knowledge of FinTech

Financial technology – known almost exclusively as “fintech” – is one of the more important and intriguing business developments of the last few years. It’s not only shaping the world of finance, but it’s poised to have a seismic impact on businesses across all industries. 

It would benefit you to learn more about fintech now, while it’s still relatively new. This will give you a leg up on the competition when it explodes onto the scene over the next 24 to 36 months. 

3.     Empathy

You’ll hear people in the business world discuss empathy in a negative light – often saying it leads to weakness – but that’s foolish talk. Empathy is an essential leadership skill that must be cultivated. 

“Empathy enables you to know if the people you’re trying to reach are actually reached.  It allows you to predict the effect your decisions and actions will have on core audiences and strategize accordingly,” leadership strategist Prudy Gourguechon writes. “Without empathy, you can’t build a team or nurture a new generation of leaders.  You will not inspire followers or elicit loyalty.”

While empathy is largely an innate skillset, you can improve and acquire certain traits. A lot of this comes from spending time with other empathetic people and learning through osmosis. As you practice empathy, it’ll start to feel more natural. 

4.     Basic Understanding of Cyber Security

Cyber security has quickly become one of the most important aspects of business in the 21st century. And though you probably have people who handle it for you, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the topic in order to stay relevant in today’s business world. There are plenty of courses you can take, podcasts you can listen to, and blogs/newsletters you can subscribe to. Make it a priority to immerse yourself in these topics so that you know what’s happening at all times.

5.     Reliability

No – we’re not talking about network reliability. We’re talking about personal reliability. You need to work on becoming the most reliable person in your industry. In an age where people are flaky and unresponsive, being a steady voice will serve you well. At the end of the day, just do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

Become a Better Business Leader

Business leaders often become intimidated by improvement. They look at highly successful founders and CEOs and feel like they’ll never reach that level. And while it’s easy to become daunted, nobody says you have to undergo significant improvement overnight. It’s all about incremental growth.

Think about in terms of one percent. Can you become one percent better this month? And then one percent better next month? If you make this your goal – and it’s incredibly reasonable – you’ll be roughly 12 percent better at the end of the year. That’s significant!

Try focusing on one of these hard or soft skills per month for the next six months and see where it takes you. Some will stick and others won’t – but it’s imperative that you try. In the end, you’ll find that the difference between you and your industry’s most successful leaders isn’t all that much. You just need a plan.

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