The surprising truth – that soft skills are the hard ones to master

Why soft skills are often the hard ones to master

It’s always amused me that leadership and other people and EQ related skills are referred to as “soft” skills. There is an implication that the soft skills are the easier, or somehow less critical than the “hard” skills.  And yet, the (possibly not surprising) truth, is that the soft skills are the hard ones to master.

This article from HBR has some interesting findings. Not only did 68% of CEOs say that they were not fully prepared for the job, but the areas of difficulty were all related to “soft” skills.

Participating anonymously, CEOs told us that while they did feel ready for the strategic and business aspects of their roles, they felt much less prepared for the personal and interpersonal components of leadership, which are just as critical to success.

The survey found:

  • 68% acknowledged that, in hindsight, they weren’t  fully prepared to take on the CEO role.
  • 50% said driving culture change was more difficult than they’d anticipated.
  • 48% said that finding time for themselves and for self-reflection was harder than expected.
  • 47% said that developing their senior leadership team was surprisingly challenging.


  • Culture, change and leadership CAN be hard. It takes time and considered thought.
  • Dealing with a senior leadership team can be VERY hard.
  • But all of this is doable with skills that can be learnt and practised.
  • The survey is a good prompt to consider how you would answer the questions around how prepared you are for your role.
  • How easy do you find the “hard” skills required of your role?
  • Are the “soft” skills easier or harder to master?


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