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Other people are the hardest part of a leader’s job

Other people are the hardest part of a leader’s job

Is it any wonder that Australian leaders have such a poor reputation when they persist in talking about “soft skills”?

Who are they kidding? Dealing with people is usually the hardest part of any job.

Coming up with strategy is a doddle compared to getting people to enact it.

People are complicated. They come to work with agendas, anxieties, behaviour patterns and unpredictable personal lives.

It takes a leader with some finely honed interpersonal skills to be able to manage, inspire and direct a crowd of employees. However, too many of our leaders think the “people stuff” is something they can just tack on to the job when all the critical tasks have been dealt with.

The director of organisational surveys and insights for Towers Watson, Adam Hall, says the result of this kind of thinking shows up in surveys, which consistently mark down Australian leaders in comparison to their global counterparts.

“There are still leaders who need to be convinced that stuff is not a soft skill. It is not ‘nice to have’ in terms of the way the organisation functions – it is core to how you run an organisation,” he says.

Low engagement


Australian employees continue to be more disengaged than the global average (28 per cent, with a further 40 per cent that are either “unsupported or detached”), according to Towers Watson’s 2014 Global Workforce Study, which surveyed 1003 employees in this country, 32,000 globally.

Unsupported employees are traditionally engaged but lack the means or energy for sustainable engagement. Detached people feel supported or energised but lack a sense of traditional engagement.

Only 44 per cent of employees have confidence in the job their senior leaders are doing, compared with 52 per cent globally.

Immediate managers fare a bit better, with 57 per cent regarded as effective, compared with 61 per cent globally.

Hall wonders if the geographical isolation of Australia means there is less competition for leadership positions. “So there hasn’t been that drive to continuously improve leadership.

“I’ve seen examples of excellent leadership as well, but the average level is lower than we think is good enough.”

Hall says strategy is the core of what leaders should be focused on, but one of the “levers” they can pull is determining how people relate to that strategy, energising and aligning the employees and designing an organisation system that supports it.

“I don’t think that is a soft skill. It is quite a hard skill,” he says.

Hall says communication is crucial: “HR and internal communications should be a leader’s two best friends. They can make or break your success.”


*Original Article: