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Niall McConville on soft skills in leadership

Niall McConville is GM Retail Distribution at TAL.

Is strong leadership reliant on soft skills?

The role and importance of strong leadership in the workplace has long been acknowledged as a vital ingredient for organisations. It is difficult for an organisation to be successful without strong leadership. The most successful leaders we see today have not only mastered their technical skills but also embody many great traits such as the ability to lead with confidence, accountability, integrity, humility, and more and more importantly, soft skills. 

While technology is advancing at a rapid pace and transforming our work and workplaces, it will not be able to replace certain functions of leadership, in particular soft skills.  

Soft skills demonstrate one’s ability to communicate effectively; from negotiating, building team morale and having emotional competence, to maintaining relationships with stakeholders.  

These interpersonal skills are particularly important during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently experiencing. When used effectively, they help build trust and respect between a leader and their people.  

The reality is that very few leaders are born with all the leadership traits needed to be successful as a leader, but they can be and are learned and trained. As the world becomes more automated, driven by technology, soft skills will become more in demand as they are one of the hardest skills to learn. Soft skills are also transferable and will stay with an individual throughout their entire career, unlike technical skills that can constantly change as technology advances or you choose to switch industry. Soft skills are also one of the few skills used in work that can be transferred to your personal life.  

At TAL, we value soft skills tremendously because when people are equipped with soft skills, they communicate better and collaborate more with others, which in turn helps foster a more productive and healthy work culture. The innovations we have developed are driven by a combination of our passion for what we do and the open communication across functions, which often leads to new ideas.  

Our people leaders lead by example through active engagement with their team members to support them with their work and empower them to achieve their best, while also showing them what effective leadership looks like. 

More: Let’s Talk: Are soft skills more important than ever in leadership?

As a General Manager, I understand that soft skills are hard to provide training for, unlike technical skills. However, I believe that it is imperative to create a career development path for all our employees with an emphasis on soft skills as it will help them fast track their careers and fundamentally have an impact on the success of our business.  

Soft skills have long been undervalued and perceived as a nice-to-have trait, but as workplaces have evolved, it has become an essential trait for individuals to thrive and stay competitive. Our firsthand experience also tells as us that leaders who continue to develop in this area are better positioned to excel, and these are the type of people we want leading our business into the future 

As Australia’s largest life insurer, soft skills play a key role in ensuring we are getting it right for our customers and partners and showing that we are there to support them in a way that demonstrates empathy and understanding. Providing that human touch, listening to our customers and prioritising their needs is the only way we can continue to be a leading player in the insurance industry.  

Niall McConville is GM Retail Distribution at TAL.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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