The Soft Skills of Leadership

You have worked hard and promotion has come your way. The CPD courses, hours spent reading and the constant seeking of ‘whole school opportunities’ have paid off.

Finally appointed to the leadership position that has eluded you for some time, you will make this work. The vision is in your heart, you picture yourself sharing, collaborating with like-minded people, you will make a difference. It’s your time.

This is a valid picture of the inception of leadership. Full of hope and so it should be, school leadership is the cradle of hope for thousands of young people in our schools across the nation. As a leader, you will be adept in processes that underpin school improvement and strategies that secure effective teaching.

You know how to write an action plan, hold staff to account and engage that elusive parent who never comes to the parents evening unless you practically pay them!

You have successfully completed leadership courses, so let me share with you the soft skills of leadership that are rarely part of any course syllabus, but will influence the success of your leadership journey far more than you realise. The leader who is appointed and thrives in their position is the one who grasps these concepts early.

Robles identifies 10 soft skills needed in leadership and in the workplace generally:

  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Courtesy
  • Work ethic
  • Flexibility
  • Teamwork
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Positive attitude

Every school leader would recognise these playing a role in their day, but we underestimate the weight these soft skills have in relation to how our leadership is received by others.

The underestimation may stem from the term ‘soft skills’ itself. Think about the word soft. It’s the obvious contrast to hard—as in the phrases; hard data, hard evidence, and hard thinking. If hard implies objective, clearly defined and reliable: soft must imply subjective, woolly, and unreliable—soft-hearted rather than hard-headed. Soft outcomes are sentimental or ‘warm and fuzzy’. It undermines a claim for serious attention.

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Diana Osagie Community Expert
Diana Osagie Community Expert