Do your leaders have the skills they really need or the skills they think they need?

According to Harvard Business Review,  over the past 2 decades there has been a massive shift in the skills top leaders need to succeed in the current environment.  

Data from Russell Reynolds Associates, one of the world’s premier executive-search firms, showed that in 5000 searches for people to fill the roles of CEO, chief financial officer, chief information officer,  head of human resources, and chief marketing officer, from 2000 to 2017, strong social skills were prioritised above operational skills, which had traditionally been valued.

The social skills that are sought after include a high level of self-awareness, the ability to listen and communicate well, to work with different types of people and groups and perspective capacity – the capacity to infer how others are thinking and feeling.

This graph shows the dramatic change in job advertisement calling for social skills versus operational skills. These skills are needed because:

  • Leaders are often called to communicate more publicly and directly with their workforce and the public
  • They need to be sensitive to how their decisions may be perceived by others (think of Optus and Qantas)
  • They are usually managing a more diverse workforce and need to call on a wider range of expertise
  • We are living in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) – leaders need to be able to use perception and empathy to respond to emerging issues, build strong teams which will withstand crises, manage opposing views and communicate decisions effectively.

Change is difficult – so if you are an aspiring leader wanting to be chosen for a top role, or you have been tasked with bring a manager up to leadership level, how do you achieve it?

Coaching can help. A good coach can facilitate life-enhancing change in others by asking good questions, listening, helping them explore their vision and goals, find learning opportunities and set the groundwork for success.

The individual who is being coached needs to agree that something is missing and be open to change.  What kind of leader do they want to be and how far is that from their real self? A personality assessment or 360˚  feedback can be helpful. What is going well and what needs to change?

The process will take time and effort, but evidence shows that coaching can help develop executives and others.

For enquiries about leadership or executive coaching, contact WEIR on (02) 8379 1298 or

Source: Harvard Business Review, July 2022