Leaders: “The Soft Stuff is the Hard Stuff.”

Jann Freed Leading 4 Comments

This post is written for anyone who wants to be more effective in influencing others–regardless of position, company, or industry.

As I watch the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, I am reminded of the importance of the “soft skills” in getting things done, inspiring others, and offering hope.  In writing Leading with Wisdom:  Sage Advice from 100 Expertsone of the main themes that emerged was “leaders connect with empathy and compassion.”  One of the sages said it this way:  “The soft stuff is the hard stuff.”  According to another sage, “The fluff is the stuff.”

We often refer to personal and interpersonal skills as the “soft skills.”  Whereas, quantitative skills such as math, accounting, and finance are referred to as the “hard skills.”  My finance colleague and I would constantly debate which set of skills were more important.  Of course, I always said the “soft stuff” and always believed I was correct.

But as I watch and listen to what is being done and what is needed to help the people of Houston and the surrounding areas, I hear that what is needed is:  compassion, empathy, trust, hope, and healing.  I hear this from the governor, mayor, police chief, and numerous others speaking out for the people of Houston.  In situations such as what Houston is facing, it is the heart that takes over to make things better.  People helping people.

There are many stories of tragedy and of hope coming out of Hurricane Harvey’s impact, but one story in particular struck me in the heart.  Sgt. Steve Perez, police officer from Houston, drowned trying to rescue others.  He was off duty and did not have to go into help.  But he told his wife “he had work to do.”  When the police chief was giving his report, he was all choked up with emotion.  He said he asked Sgt. Perez’s wife if her husband would have rather died at home or on the job helping others.  And she said, “helping others.”  This is servant leadership—where jobs are viewed as serving others, not self-serving.

To be an effective servant leader, the soft stuff is the stuff … compassion, empathy, and trust in hopes of healing the pain of grief and loss that accompanies horrific natural disasters.   Or helps heal the pain that exists in life and in workplaces today.

How willing are you to put others ahead of self?

What is the reading on your compassion and empathy “scale?”

NOTE:  Watch for the release of my next podcast interview this Friday!  Thanks in advance for listening and as always, I welcome feedback and comments.