Today, we often hear the axiom, “hired for technical skills and fired for behavioral missteps.” Its roots can be traced to a century ago when, in 1918, a Carnegie Foundation report cited personal qualities as seven times more important than knowledge of engineering science, and the technique of practice.
Clearly, the interdependence of technical and interpersonal skills is not a new conversation, yet in the face of the rapid rate of technological change, emphasis on the so-called interpersonal or soft skills is often underrated.
As coaches, we are encouraged by our industry partners’ heightened interest in Executive and Leadership Presence training for millennials. Universities and MBA programs are also addressing the compelling need to prepare students with the behavioral prerequisites for recruitment, often driven by the void reported by frustrated recruiters.
There are numerous theories about why clever and successful students lack the basic behavioral acumen to navigate the earliest stages of corporate life. The fact remains, they are, indeed, frequently missing these critical pieces.
Millennial survey ranks Elon Musk and Richard Branson the world’s most effective business leaders
The recent survey published by CEMS (the global alliance of academic and corporate institutions) ranked Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk as the world’s most effective leader with Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, second.
Most survey respondents were 24-27, from 32 countries and with 78 per cent employed by multinational companies.
This sends a strong and positive message that millennials, our future captains of industry, recognize the mix of vibrant leadership and respect for advancing technology both leaders personify. Ultimately, it is this balance of technical and behavioral skills that define Executive Presence.
The survey clearly indicates, however, that millennials identify their biggest challenge as the rapid rate of technological and digital change. In Nick Morrison’s Forbes article about the CEMS’ survey, he writes; “The findings emphasize the key role that technological and digital change should play in a business school education, equipping students with the skills they will need in the global marketplace.”
Which brings us back to “hired for technical skills and fired for behavioral missteps.” Regardless of how profoundly developed people’s technical expertise is, without the skills to communicate, to inspire, and to lead teams, they are less likely to have opportunities to share their big ideas.
1Charles Riborg Mann, A Study of Engineering Education, Carnegie Foundation, 1918, pages 106-107