Soft skills can be a hiring mandate, and several in particular may make or break a candidate's chances to land a job. There's good reason for this. Management positions are not just about technical competence, but the ways in which a person goes about accomplishing tasks — the how.
Managers and Leaders
The terms "manager" and "leader" are often used interchangeably, but in this discussion leaders are the executives and decision-makers above managers in the corporate hierarchy. Leaders differ from managers in that they are focused on the strategic intersection of people and tasks, and on the big picture "why" questions:
Why is this project important? Why is our company valuable in our markets? Why is starting this community service initiative a good idea?
Leaders must be able to inspire their subordinates to understand the "why" answers and be motivated to execute, whereas managers must focus on how their subordinates will execute from an organizational and task orientation. Not all managers make great leaders, and not all leaders were exceptional managers. There are overlapping soft skills essential for a business school graduate to succeed as a manager and advance into a leadership role. Strong managerial candidates typically have a combination of innate traits and business school training that they refine into applicable skills.
In-Demand Managerial-Leadership Soft Skill Sets
The GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey Report 2017 asked employers to rank five major skill sets as the most important when hiring business graduates for mid-level jobs. In ascending order, they are managerial, leadership, technical, teamwork and communication. Developing these skills takes center stage in the UNC Pembroke MBA online programs.
Managerial. These skills focus on organization and execution of projects within a department or as part of interdepartmental collaborations. Managers are able to create organizational structures — teams — to support projects. They delegate responsibilities, determine timelines, build in accountability and plan the steps toward completion. They also have the analytical abilities to measure the effectiveness of their subordinates' work, plus the foresight to anticipate business needs in a dynamic environment.
Leadership. The soft skills that undergird leadership include integrity, drive and the ability to inspire. Leaders with integrity have strong character, and staff feel confident that they are fair, honest and accountable. Drive is what compels a leader to seek professional development, to work relentlessly toward goals, and to overcome setbacks. The ability to inspire comes from empathy; one must first understand the qualities that make others want to perform their best, including gratitude and genuine passion.
Technical. These are the core proficiencies of a particular managerial role, and they vary from position to position. Many managerial roles require niche expertise, which is why UNC Pembroke offers specialized MBA programs online in supply chain management, financial services, business analytics, finance and healthcare administration.
Teamwork. This skill is about coordinating work between people. It requires the abilities to build and maintain productive working relationships, draw consensus, facilitate discussions and collaboration, and solve interpersonal conflicts. When challenges arise, diplomacy is an essential component of teamwork skills.
Communication. These skills are essential for rising from management to leadership. GMAC asked employers to assign a proficiency level to 25 specific skills they would require of a managerial candidate. Of the five top-ranked skills, four relate to communication: oral communication, listening skills, written communication and presentation skills.
Oral communication is about preparing thoughts before speaking, speaking with clarity and presenting ideas effectively. Strong oral communicators make great presenters who can identify how to engage audiences and elicit the intended response. For many leadership positions, presentation skills are essential. Listening skills involve extracting, processing and retaining details from presentations and conversations. Skillful listening enables managers to derive better solutions. Finally, effective written communicators understand the nuances of a variety of communication channels, from email and printed media to face to face. Like effective presenters, they must be engaging and persuasive.
UNC Pembroke Develops Critical Soft Skills
Given the importance of these soft skills to career enhancement, UNC Pembroke has developed state-of-the-art teaching methodologies, including collaborative projects, case studies and multimedia tools for its online MBA programs.
Organizational Theory and Behavior is a core course in all of UNCP's MBA programs. In this course, students analyze and solve case problems that relate to human behavior in groups. In an elective course on Leadership and Change, students examine the concept of leadership as an interactive process to initiate and sustain change.
The result of this preparation: UNCP's online graduates are masters of the core business disciplines, specializations and soft skills that correlate to long-term professional and organizational success.
Learn more about UNC Pembroke's online MBA programs.
Sources:The Balance: Management Skills List and Examples
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