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Leadership & Management

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills of Leadership

If you’re currently on a job hunt, you might have heard about the recruiters' increased preference for soft skills over hard skills. Back in the day, this was less of a norm. Instead, it was assumed that qualified ones already have the necessary soft and hard skills. 

In leadership, like any other field, both types of skills matter. Walden University defines hard skills as ''job-related competencies'' and soft skills as ''personal qualities and traits.'' We believe this to be the most concise and accurate definition.

Investopedia's definition is also somewhat similar. They define hard skills to be ''technical skills,'' calling soft skills ''learned abilities.'' Here's a detailed overview of hard skills vs soft skills of leadership.

Why Are Leadership Skills Important?

Be it hard or soft, leadership skills are something that all individuals in a leadership role must possess. Leadership skills are necessary to: 

  • Lead: First and foremost, skills are the key factor that distinguishes a leader from an employee. These skills also make a leader stand out from a manager. 

  • Boost Morale: Leaders are the ones who set the tone for their team. The morale of a team is often reflective of the leader's attitude and behaviour. Soft skills, like empathy and emotional intelligence, play a crucial role in this area. 

  • Drive Results: Ultimately, leadership skills are crucial for achieving organisational goals and driving results. 

  • Bolster Career Growth: Leaders also have a personal career trajectory. The more skills they hone, the better their chances of achieving their goals. 

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills of Leadership

If you're planning to apply for a leadership role or transition to one in your organisation, you must know what hard and soft skills entail. Why are they needed? Which of the two can be learned? 

Let's discuss

Hard Skills 

Hard skills are teachable and measurable abilities that are specific to a certain job or role. They are quantifiable, and you can acquire them through education or training. 

Let's take a Biology teacher as an example. Their hard skill is the knowledge of Biology, which they have gained through university education.  

Some examples of hard skills in a leadership role are: 

  • Computer skills

  • Financial management

  • Strategic planning

  • Marketing knowledge 

  • Agile/Scrum 

  • Lean Thinking 

  • Project Management 

  • Change Management 

  • Ethical Leadership 

As you can see, it's possible to learn all these things. Anyone can learn them through a course. People with a university background in business or related degrees have familiarity with some of these hard skills.

Soft Skills 

Soft skills are also sometimes called people skills. In some instances, you may call them transferable skills because you can transfer them from one job to another. 

They are personal characteristics that enable leaders to interact effectively with people. They include: 

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Communication skills

  • Patience and persuasion

  • Flexibility and adaptability

  • Problem-solving skills 

  • Teamwork and collaboration

  • Time management

  • Empathy 

  • Work ethic 

Research shows that soft skills are more critical in leadership roles, especially empathy. Empathetic leaders create psychologically safe environments where employees feel valued and heard. As a result, the organisation sees higher employee retention, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and productivity. 

How to Develop Hard Skills?

As discussed, you can learn hard skills through training or courses. There are a few other avenues, too. 

Books and Online Guides 

There are plenty of resources available in the form of books and online guides that you can use to expand your knowledge. 


Good mentors are hard to come by. However, once you have found one, they can change your life. Mentors have the expertise and authority to teach you hard skills. 

They have been through it all. So they can guide you in navigating through difficult situations. McKinsey recommends looking for a mentor in your organisation first. Ask around your contacts, and if you can't find one in the organisation, reach out to someone in your network. 

Take a Course 

There's just something different about having a certificate that says you have completed a course. It gives you an edge over someone who has not taken such training. Also, you can claim you learned from the best — because you really have. 

You can choose from various courses like project management, agile/scrum, marketing, and change management. While some of these

How to Develop Soft Skills?

Developing soft skills can take more time and practice than hard skills. It's an ongoing process that requires self-awareness and reflection — not to forget the willingness to improve. 

Here are five ways to develop your soft skills easily.

Observe and Learn 

Let's say you have trouble listening to others. You're always quick to interject and share your opinion. How do you learn active listening? Take notes from the person in the organisation who is the best at it. 

Suppose there's a manager who everyone loves for her active listening skills. Observe how she listens, what body language she uses, and how she responds to others. 

Pick up her methods and try to implement them in your conversations. 

Ask for Feedback 

The scale for keeping a self-mediate check is blurred. We tend to overestimate our abilities, and it's common in most people. Ask for feedback from your colleagues. Then, take constructive criticism positively and work on it. 

Practice Self-reflection 

Reflection is a powerful tool for personal growth. Take time to reflect on your day and identify the moments where you could have used better soft skills.

Attend Workshops or Seminars 

Organisations often hold workshops and seminars for employees to enhance their soft skills. These are great opportunities to learn from experts. You can also talk to people who attend these workshops and get insight into their experiences. 


Which Hard Skills Differentiate Great Leaders from Good Ones? 

Great leaders are good at problem-solving, decision-making, and strategic thinking. They also possess strong financial acumen and technological proficiency. 

Which Soft Skills Do Recruiters Look for in Leaders? 

Recruiters look for leaders who are strong communicators, have emotional intelligence, are adaptable, and possess good time-management skills. The specific requirements of a leadership role will depend on the job description. 

Is It Possible to Be a Good Leader Without Having Great Soft Skills? 

In today's time, soft skills are inevitably paramount to being a good leader. Without them, you can't expect to be the kind of leader people want to follow. 


While you can't actively learn soft skills, it's quite possible to learn the hard ones. As someone planning to step into a leadership role, a course like the Professional Academy Diploma in Leadership & Management could do wonders for your career trajectory. 

Learn the ins and outs of leadership, ranging from change management and coaching to business continuity planning, to amp up your hard skills. Enrol now to advance in your professional career the easiest way!

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