The New Age of Leadership: Embracing Soft Skills in the Post-Pandemic C-Suite

Jul 17, 2023By Jeremy Brown
Jeremy Brown

The C-suite is evolving in the wake of the global pandemic, and the need for soft skills is more prominent than ever. Leaders are now operating in a “VUCA” world — Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. This new landscape demands a higher degree of nuance and soft skills from every member of leadership. Traits such as empathy, vulnerability, inspiration, creativity, and resilience are no longer optional; they are essential elements of an executive’s job description.

The Power of Soft Skills in Leadership 💪🧠

According to the AESC (Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants), a CEO’s personality characteristics can account for as much as 35% of a company’s financial performance. This statistic underscores the importance of soft skills in leadership roles. The AESC identified six core competencies that are in high demand across all C-suite roles:

  1. Adaptability 🔄
  2. Agility 🏃‍♀️
  3. Innovation 💡
  4. Communication 🗣️
  5. Collaboration 🤝
  6. Customer Centricity 🎯

Let’s delve into these competencies and understand how they shape the modern C-suite.

Adaptability: The Key to Navigating the Unexpected 🌪️

In today’s business environment, change is the only constant. Leaders must navigate unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances daily, making adaptability a crucial trait. A good leader adjusts to ongoing change with poise and positivity, operating with a mindset where change is inevitable and a flexible response is the best way to make the most of each pivot and course correction.

Agility: The Art of Quick and Creative Change 🎨

Agility is about making quick and creative changes that optimize adjustments. Agile leaders don’t just manage or mitigate change; they get the most out of it. They introduce a degree of inspirational stability to an organization that enables their teams to jump at each disruption as a chance to advance their brand.

Innovation: Turning Creativity into Reality 🚀

Innovation is about turning creative ideas into useful solutions. Good executives are always implementing innovation, whether it’s a CEO overseeing the launch of a new product or service or a CHRO tweaking an existing process to optimize the onboarding process.

Communication: The Backbone of Effective Leadership 📣

Communication is a complex, multi-faceted skill that requires the ability to communicate vertically both up and down the organizational chart and across the C-suite. Effective leaders understand that communication doesn’t stop at sending a message; it’s about ensuring the recipient has paid attention to the message, received it as intended, been persuaded by it, identified what parts pertain to them, and have actionable takeaways or relevant information.

Collaboration: Turning Goals into Reality 🎯

Collaboration uses healthy communication to achieve desired results. A good leader helps their team communicate and interact as they work toward a common goal. They encourage sharing diverse opinions, help make important decisions, and encourage employees to engage in their collective effort.

Customer Centricity: The Heart of Business Success ❤️

Competent leaders never forget the importance of the customer. They know that a customer-centric approach is essential in every stage of business. Leaders know how to prioritize the customer from the first point of contact from a member of your sales team or marketing content right on through to support after the point of purchase.

Conclusion: The Changing Face of Leadership 🌅

The pandemic didn’t just rewrite the executive playbook; it irrevocably altered how we hire leaders in the first place. Leadership demands in the new normal are no longer compartmentalized to each role or position. Nor are they primarily dependent on hard skills. Soft skills like agility, communication, and innovation have become essential character traits that every leader must possess if they want to lead effectively.

What are your thoughts on the evolving role of leadership in the post-pandemic world? How are you or your organization adapting to these changes? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. And if you found this article insightful, please share it with your network.

This article is based on insights from this post by Stanton Chase: Executive Search & Leadership Consultants.