By M.S. Rao
The article introduces the concept of “soft leadership” and illustrates what differentiates soft leadership from hard leadership, and explores how to acquire six characteristics – character, conscience, courage, compassion, commitment, and contribution to excel as successful women leaders and CEOs based on the practice of soft leadership.
“Our emerging workforce is not interested in command and control leadership. They don’t want to do things because I said so, they want to do things because they want to do them.” – Irene Rosenfield
Soft leadership is a new leadership perspective that is closely connected with women leadership. Hence, we will discuss soft leadership and its relevance to women leadership. Women leadership can be defined as the process of women leading from the front with an example by managing the emotions, egos, and feelings of all people especially men by breaking the glass ceiling to accomplish organisational goals and objectives.
What is Soft Leadership?
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
There are 11 Cs that constitute soft leadership – character, charisma, conscience, conviction, courage, communication, compassion, commitment, consistency, consideration, and contribution. Here are the inspiring examples connected with each C. Mahatma Gandhi is associated with character, Mikhail Gorbachev with charisma, Martin Luther King Jr. with conscience, Aung San Sui Kyi with convictions, Alexander the Great with courage, Winston Churchill with communication, Mother Teresa with compassion, Nelson Mandela with commitment, John Wesley with consistency, Dalai Lama with consideration, and Booker T. Washington with contribution. It is highly challenging for people to cultivate these 11 characteristics. However, if people possess more than six traits they get into the fold of soft leadership.
The author requested Dave Ulrich, father of modern HR who is his good friend, to create leadership code and the latter consented and mapped 11 Cs onto leadership code thus giving sanctity to soft leadership.
Soft leadership is a people-oriented leadership without compromising the task-orientation. It is to accomplish goals and objectives through persuasion, not through pressure. It is to lead with soft skills and people skills. It blends soft skills, hard skills, and leadership. It emphasises the significance of precious Human Resources. It helps in managing the emotions, egos, and feelings of the people successfully. It focuses on the personality, attitude, and behaviour of the people, and calls for making others feel important. It is an integrative, participative, relationship, and behavioral leadership model adopting tools such as persuasion, negotiation, recognition, appreciation, motivation, and collaboration to accomplish the tasks effectively. Succinctly, soft leadership can be defined as the process of setting goals; influencing people through persuasion; building strong teams; negotiating them with a win-win attitude; respecting their failures; handholding them; motivating them constantly; aligning their energies and efforts; recognising and appreciating their contribution in accomplishing organisational goals and objectives with an emphasis on soft skills. It is based on the right mindset, skill set, and toolset. Here is the diagram (Figure 1) connecting 11 Cs that collectively constitutes soft leadership.
Since the world is changing fast, this leadership perspective is very much essential. With the entry of millennials who are smart and ambitious, this leadership perspective is more essential than ever before. Additionally, this leadership style is the need of the hour with the advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Fourth Industrial Revolution.
About the Author
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the father of “Soft Leadership” and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with 38 years of experience and the author of over 45 books including the award-winning ‘21 Success Sutras for CEOs’.1 Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs including http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He is also a dynamic, energetic, and inspirational leadership speaker.
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