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The management skills employers seek

The importance of key management skills to international MBA recruiters, along with their satisfaction with the standard of these skills displayed by new hires, has been a regular feature of the annual QS Jobs & Salary Trends Reports. In its latest edition, over 4,300 MBA employers gave their opinions in 15 sub strains of management skills, divided into the categories of soft skills and hard skills. In this article we tackle the top four soft skills employers want.
Soft skills defined: from people skills to leadership traits

It’s OK if you haven’t heard the term ‘soft skills’ before – it’s highly likely you’ll already be familiar with many of the management skills this term seeks to bracket together . The term brings together qualities that emanate from a person’s personality and their interaction with people around them, rather than those which reflect specific knowledge on a given topic. These are management skills, combining a person’s leadership traits and people skills, which work to complement more definable hard skills.

Interpersonal Skills: These are a measure of your people skills with specific regard to your ability to work well with others. C-level executives can no longer hide behind the sanctuary of a closed-door-policy and be considered an effective manager. Working collegially, building and developing a team, along with making sure that everyone in the team is happy in their endeavours on behalf of the company and feels appreciated, are all aspects of necessary interpersonal skills. These are the people skills employers now demand from their senior management. In some instances, use of the terms ‘interpersonal skills’ and ‘people skills’ are broadened to encompass all soft skills, as they all involve human interaction, but here the management skills listed below are described as separate entities so that the distinct features contained within soft skills can be better described.

Leadership Skills: This was the first year since 1990 in which employers included in QS’ annual survey were satisfied with the leadership traits displayed by MBA graduates, and is a reward for the efforts of leading business schools in striving to accommodate increasing expectations in this area. Organisations need leaders to provide guidance and direction, to implement plans as well as to motivate staff. Leadership skills fall under the domain of soft skills because leadership traits differ widely between individuals, being based on a person’s philosophy, personality, and experience both in and outside of professional life. However, generally speaking, a few common leadership styles can be found, including ‘inspirational’, ‘ethical’ and ‘action’ leaders. Employers will often cite leadership traits and styles they are most in need of. For example, a company going through a period of transition may have a ‘visionary’ leader high on its agenda. Indeed, being able to drive forward the change needed to transform or develop an organisation has begun to emerge into the separate category of ‘change-management’ skills.

Strategic Thinking: This is the ability to think along a clear path of action, and to be able to apply this path, or strategy, at every stage in your work and decision-making. At C-level, strategic thinking often entails setting a company’s direction and making sure it doesn’t get knocked off the intended course. Its place on the soft skills agenda for business schools has been secure since the turn of the century as programmes seek to help students progress from just functional expertise and on to ‘seeing the bigger picture’ and getting a sense of where the future of an organisation as a whole lies.

Communications Skills: This soft skill relates to interpersonal skills in your ability to communicate with others and to get on well with your team in the interests of working towards common goals. Miscommunication within a company is much more widespread than it should be, and can lead to wasted resources if people are not all on the same page. However, communication skills also extend to your presentation ability, both on paper and through speech. Much of the art of persuasion rests in the way you come across when presenting to stakeholders and the importance of the manner in which you represent your company will only increase along with the scrutiny to which your businesses is subjected to as you grow, by the media and general public for example.

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