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So many names, so few differences, Why we are sticking with soft skills.

Updated: May 9, 2023

Leadership skills, soft skills, human skills, power skills, the harder skills, the more important skills. Why so many names? We didn’t know when we started qChange that there would be so much baggage around what we call the non-technical skills that drive our relationships and company culture. I guess we were naïve.

It’s been over 3 years since we founded qChange. When we started, we were totally focused on making it easier and more effective to develop leadership skills for all. We didn’t realize that the industry interprets leadership skills as being for leaders only.

To be more specific, mainstream thinking is that companies build leadership skills in their top-level managers and executives. Maybe it’s because a multi-billion dollar industry is built around this category, with one-on-one service and custom content. While important and valuable, and not that we couldn’t build a business focused on this segment, it didn’t fit our vision that everyone can develop these skills. Time to reframe.

The last month has changed the way we conduct research. So a quick ask to ChatGPT provided this.

  1. Leadership skills: These are abilities that enable someone to guide, motivate, and influence others toward a common goal. Examples of leadership skills include vision, strategic thinking, delegation, decision-making, and communication.

  2. Soft skills: These are personal attributes and qualities that enable people to interact effectively with others. Examples of soft skills include communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, and time management.

  3. Human skills: These are the abilities that enable individuals to understand, connect, and work effectively with other people. Examples of human skills include empathy, collaboration, communication, active listening, conflict resolution, and cultural awareness.

  4. Power skills: This term refers to the essential skills required to succeed in a fast-paced, dynamic, and rapidly changing world. Examples of power skills include critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, communication, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.

See the problem? There’s not much difference. For example, communication is in each one.

The term "soft skills" emerged in the 1970s. It was used to describe personal attributes and qualities that were difficult to quantify or measure but were nevertheless essential for success in the workplace. The categorization as human or power skills recognizes the above issue in using leadership skills and that we need a new way to denote the importance of soft skills. But there’s no agreement on the term, just a lot of marketing.

So late last year, we reframed qChange. In keeping with our vision of developing these skills in everyone, we decided to go with the tried-and-true soft skills naming. Everyone has an idea of soft skills; no one argues these are essential for success in and out of the workplace.

We realized that our efforts should go into explaining our value and differentiation, not in trying to build industry agreement on naming.

Up next the challenge with soft skill ROI.

qChange Innovation Stories shares the learnings of building a next-generation experiential learning company in a sea of entrenched capabilities and status quo thinking.

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