The past weeks, I have been reflecting moments and people I have encountered. Most of moments were memorable, some unexpected, and some that I wish I could have gone back to re-do/re-say.
One of questions that I was asked a few weeks ago was to describe myself as a leader. Without hesitations, I said, “I would describe myself as a soft leader, because I connect with people at a deeper level in order to know what motivates them and what inspires them. No one in our part of world needs to work for a company or someone. People come to work and work for you because they want to make an impact at where they are, and ultimately help their countries move forward. As a soft leader, I am able to bring out the best of people’s potentials.”
This was one of moments I wish I could have gone back, to replace the word, soft, with authentic and observant. To be frank, this is an interesting learning moment for me, from a professional coach’s point of view.
Corporations often emphasize the importance of leaders equipped with soft skills, in order to build relationships internally and externally. Although soft skills are recognized as one of the main factors to retain talent in companies, corporations still prefer describing their leaders as confident and strong, instead of as soft.
I spent a few days researching online for the characteristics of soft leadership, and came across Professor M.S. Rao, who pioneers the concept of soft leadership. Professor Rao’s theory is that corporations need more of soft leaders who can transform people, instead of transactions of tasks. In his blog post on mile.org and UN Post, Professor Rao did a compare & contrast between soft vs hard leadership.
“Soft leadership emphasizes on character, charisma, compassion, communication, courage, empathy, persuasion and setting personal example. In contrast, hard leadership focuses on fear, threats and negative motivation.
Soft leadership touches on people orientation while hard leadership on task orientation.
Soft leadership involves usage of both integrative and participatory style while hard leadership involves the carrot and stick policy.
Soft leaders adopt transformational, democratic and authentic leadership style while hard leaders adopt transactional and autocratic style of leadership. Precisely, hard leadership believes in how much you know while soft leadership believes in how much you care.”
I do agree that we need more of soft and observant leaders in today’s world. And, when can we all feel comfortable with being described ourselves as soft leaders without any reservations?