Critical leadership skills essential for businesses success

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Businesses and organizations worldwide have experienced unprecedented seismic changes due to the 2020 global pandemic. As a result, there is an increased urgency to successfully identify the next generation of leaders and explore the essential skills needed to prepare them to steer businesses towards sustainability and success.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business recently surveyed business leaders in Singapore to identify and explore the key skills needed for the next-generation of leaders, and interviewed senior decision-makers, including founders, business owners, board members, C-suite, and directors across companies of various sizes in Singapore.

The survey identified the leadership skillsets needed in the next generation of leaders to ensure their preparedness for the future.

When asked to choose between soft skills, hard skills or an equal combination of the two as being the most important need for today’s businesses, 41% of survey respondents chose soft skills while 54% chose a combination of the two. Only 5% of respondents believed that technical skills are the most important when it comes to business leaders being future-ready.

Among Singaporean business leaders, 49% indicated flexibility / agility, as the most important skill for the next generation of leaders to navigate through a continuously evolving and challenging environment.

Leaders also viewed foresight (37%) as an essential quality for a visionary leader, the ability to make tough decisions (37%), effective communication (35%), and long-term planning (32%) as the key skills for the next generation of leaders.

Interestingly, the same respondents identified creativity, foresight, long-term planning, effective communications, and comprehensive business acumen as the top skills, the next generation of leaders were lacking. The skill gap provides a unique opportunity for an institution like the University of Michigan Ross School of Business to upskill the next crop of business leaders.

Melanie Weaver Barnett, Chief Executive Education Officer of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, said, “COVID-19 has transformed consumer behavior forever, forcing businesses to view skills as an investment to remain relevant and competitive post the crisis.

“Our latest survey in Singapore identifies a mix of soft skills, including foresight, agility, communication, and decision-making abilities, combined with technical expertise as what business leaders consider most important for future success.

“We recognize that some of those so-called soft-skills are enhanced by the hard skills that underlie them. For example, excellent data analytics certainly enhances the capabilities of foresight and decision-making. There seems to be a realization that it’s the soft-skills that tip the balance, though.

“This entire exercise has provided valuable insight into developing Singapore-specific programs that will address the skills gap in the region.”