As a recruiter in the PR & creative industries I’m often working on senior roles agency side. Roles that involve managing people often start as early as Senior Account Executive level but it’s the Account Directors and above where I find the lack of soft skills as a recruitment focus quite fascinating and in my opinion, a mistake to overlook.
Soft skills are a crucial component of effective leadership and to foster a happy and productive environment. While technical expertise and strategic vision are undeniably essential, soft skills, encompassing interpersonal, communication, and emotional intelligence, are what often distinguish great leaders from merely competent ones.
In so many industries you find that career development is linear; if you are great at your ‘job’ you are promoted. With that promotion brings inevitable and increased people management responsibilities. Yet many people who are excellent at their day to day jobs make terrible leaders of people. So why aren’t more agencies and companies prioritising the hiring of senior players that have demonstrate soft skills?
In my mind, I would rather invest in a leader with great soft skills who will motivate several other individuals to produce excellent work. Yes, I want my leader to be competent at their own role and lead by example, but I don’t necessarily need a genius-level PR master; rather someone who can bring out those qualities in others and allow a whole team to shine and thrive. Surely with that culture embedded not only will clients be happy but the team will too, making recruiting for the ever-elusive Account Manager easier because they’ve heard great things about being part of that team.
Soft skills are so overlooked and so under appreciated. Effective communication for example is a real gift and even in the world of PR, it’s not something that’s a given skill. Communication is not just about transmitting information; it’s about ensuring that the message is clearly understood and that team members feel heard. Leaders with strong communication skills can articulate their vision, expectations, and feedback in a way that resonates. Clear communication minimises misunderstandings, reduces conflicts, and ensures that everyone is aligned with objectives. In times of change or uncertainty, the ability to communicate with transparency and empathy becomes even more vital, helping to alleviate concerns and maintain a sense of stability within the team.
Moreover, soft skills are integral to effective conflict resolution and problem-solving. In any workplace, conflicts are inevitable, and leaders must be adept at addressing and resolving them constructively. Emotional intelligence, a key soft skill, enables leaders to navigate conflicts with empathy, understanding different perspectives, and finding solutions that are mutually beneficial. This not only resolves immediate issues but also contributes to a positive work culture where employees feel supported and valued.
Adaptability is another critical soft skill for leaders, especially in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. The ability to embrace change, learn from failures, and pivot strategies is essential for leading a team or company through dynamic environments. Leaders with strong adaptability can guide their teams through uncertainty, fostering resilience and a culture of continuous improvement.
I think the case for employing senior leaders with honed soft skills has never been stronger. With such fast-paced working environments and economic uncertainty it’s vital that there is a stable, adaptable, approachable, confident communicator that a team of people can reply upon.
Next time you’re looking to hire an Account Director or an Associate Director, try prioritising soft skills in your brief rather than just trying to hire the same skill set over and over again.