Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Looking for a new job? Most companies want leadership skills

Organisations want people with the power skills and leadership qualities that will drive growth and success.

If you have power and leadership skills you could just be the talent that many companies are looking for in today’s fast-paced, globalised economy where companies must constantly adapt and innovate to stay ahead of the competition.

“As businesses in South Africa navigate a challenging landscape marked by political uncertainty, economic instability and social disparities, it is more critical than ever for organisations to cultivate and nurture strong leaders who can steer their teams towards success,” says Chris Blair, CEO at 21st Century.

“Power skills, the foundation of success, are often referred to as ‘soft skills’. These skills are a combination of personal attributes and people skills that enable individuals to work effectively with others, solve problems and adapt to change.”

These skills include communication, collaboration, critical thinking, adaptability and emotional intelligence. Blair says in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected and complex thanks to communication and technology, power skills are essential for navigating the challenges that come with an exponentially evolving business landscape.

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Soft skills for leadership

“Soft skills have become increasingly important in today’s workforce because they enable employees to navigate complex and dynamic work environments more effectively than hard skills alone. While hard skills are still essential for carrying out technical tasks, power skills enable individuals to excel in their roles by fostering strong relationships, problem-solving and adaptability.

He says strong communication skills, for example, are vital for ensuring that teams can work together seamlessly and effectively. “Skilled communicators can articulate their thoughts clearly and concisely, while also actively listening and responding to feedback from others and this promotes a collaborative environment that encourages innovation and the sharing of ideas.”

Emotional intelligence is another power skill that allows employees to understand and manage their emotions and the emotions of others which is crucial for conflict resolution and building trust among colleagues. Adaptability on the other hand, is a key power skill that allows employees to embrace change, learn from new experiences and evolve in response to new challenges.

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The ultimate power skill

Is there an ultimate power skill? Blair says, among power skills, leadership stands out as the most crucial for success and is the ultimate power skill.

“Leaders possess the unique ability to inspire, motivate and empower others to achieve their best. They are visionaries who can see the bigger picture and strategise to achieve long-term goals, while they can also empathise with their team members and address individual needs.”

Blair says effective leaders are adaptable, agile and have a growth mindset, enabling them to learn from mistakes and continually evolve to meet the demands of their environment.

“Leadership stands out as the ultimate power skill because it encompasses a range of soft skills that are crucial for guiding and motivating teams to achieve their goals.”

Leaders must be able to communicate a clear vision, inspire their team and make strategic decisions in the face of uncertainty, something that is essential for navigating life and business in South Africa.

“For instance, a great leader must have the ability to delegate tasks effectively, recognising each team member’s strengths and assigning responsibilities accordingly. This not only optimises productivity but also fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment among employees.”

Leaders must also be skilled in conflict resolution to address disagreements or disputes in a fair and empathetic manner to maintain a positive and harmonious work environment, he says.

“Another example of strong leadership is the ability to provide constructive feedback, helping team members identify areas for improvement while also recognizing and celebrating their successes to foster a culture of continuous growth and development, ensuring that both the individual and the organisation can adapt and succeed in the face of changing circumstances.”

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How to empower talent

The way forward for companies to empower talent in South Africa is to foster a strong talent pool equipped with power skills and leadership qualities, Blair says. “South African companies must invest in continuous learning and development through various methods, including mentorship programs, leadership development workshops and on-the-job training.”

Companies can also create a supportive work environment that encourages open communication, collaboration and sharing ideas to help employees develop and hone their power skills.

Blair says it is also essential for local organisations to address the social disparities that can hinder equal access to opportunities. “By actively working towards creating an inclusive and diverse workplace, companies can tap into a wider pool of talent and ensure that they are nurturing the best and brightest leaders of tomorrow.”

This can be done by, for example, implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as targeted recruitment programs, unconscious bias training and mentorship schemes aimed at supporting underrepresented groups.

These initiatives can help break down barriers to entry and promote a more equitable work environment, ultimately empowering a diverse range of individuals to succeed and lead. “The challenging and competitive landscape that defines the South African business environment, requires companies to prioritise developing and nurturing talent with the power skills and leadership qualities necessary to succeed.”

By fostering a culture of learning, growth and inclusivity, organisations can equip their employees with the skills needed to navigate complex challenges and also attract and retain top talent.

“Ultimately, investing in power skills and leadership development is the key to unlocking the full potential of South Africa’s workforce and driving long-term success in an increasingly competitive global market.”

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