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Why a people-centred approach to leadership is key to success

Are you an aspiring leader? If so, your approach to leadership may differ from how you are used to being led, as the leadership paradigm in the workplace has now transformed from an autocratic style of management to a more people-centric approach.

Gone are the days where an individual at the top takes ultimate control and makes decisions based solely on their beliefs. To succeed in today’s world, organisational leaders must create an environment where workplace collaboration and wellbeing are valued and prioritised.

Why put people first?

Optimistic leadership expert and bestselling author of The Power of Why and Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek, defines good leadership as ‘making others feel safe’. He explains that great leaders have the skills to inspire their people and create an environment of trust and cooperation. Organisations who adopt this approach, Sinek argues, vastly outperform their competition.

Today, the most forward-thinking CEOs need to have the technical and practical skills required to run their businesses and possess the soft skills to relate to their staff and customers. Leaders set themselves up for long term success by putting people at the core of their business.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are personal attributes that allow you to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.  You can practise soft skills like emotional intelligence by identifying ‘the vibe’ of what’s happening around you and developing the emotional vocabulary to communicate with others effectively. Empathy and understanding the feelings of others are also crucial to building successful relationships, whether it’s with an individual, team or customer.

Which soft skills are the most important?

In an era of artificial intelligence and automation, human-centric skills are needed now more than ever. According to the Harvard Business Review*, ‘soft skills’ are misnamed as they’re the hardest to understand and perfect, but ultimately give humans an edge over robots.

A study by LinkedIn Learning** identified the most in-demand workplace soft skills as creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence – competencies that will be difficult, if not impossible, to automate in the future.

How do you develop soft skills?

The term ‘soft skills’ may imply that they’re simple to learn, but these critical skills are anything but easy to truly master. The good news is that there are ways to get on the road to soft skill proficiency:

  • Start by being aware. Notice what’s happening with yourself and others in meetings and within your team. Who are the influencers in the conversation, and why? What can you learn from how they communicate, regardless of what they say.
  • Develop and build on your emotional vocabulary to be able to communicate better and practise empathy. For example, when feeling down, instead of describing the emotion as sad, see if you can describe it in more detail – is it actually disappointment, regret, weary?
  • Be open to feedback, actively asking trusted colleagues what they would suggest as your focus areas for improvement, and be open to learn and grow.

Most importantly, be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and practice these skills regularly. Some may be inherent to you and easy to pick up, others completely foreign, but all can be learned and developed through coaching, workshops, and good old-fashioned practice.

Are you ready to lead with purpose? The management skills you develop in our MBA could propel you into a place of influence. With ACAP’s deep understanding of people, we’ll give you the soft skills to help you better understand yourself and get the very best out of others. Find out more

*Gusten, A.J. & Sviokla, J. 2018, ‘7 skills that aren’t about to be automated’, Harvard Business Review

** Van Nuis, A. 2019, ‘Upskill your employees with the skills companies need in 2020’, LinkedIn Learning Blog


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