Emotional Intelligence: a power skill, NOT HR mumbo-jumbo

By Nili Goldfein

“Soft skills get little respect but they will make or break your career” - Peggy Klaus, author

At CBD - a leading communications company (true story, fictional name), prospective talents were offered a choice between two career paths: management or tech. Those who chose management received extensive business and people training, while those who chose tech received endless opportunities for professional development in their expertise.

As in many companies, CBD considered tech-talent as more ‘important’. As such, the company immensely invested in their personal, professional, financial development and well-being, while making them feel essential, even irreplaceable.

Consequently, a two-headed leadership system was formed. Each project was led by a business management administrator, who tended to budget, manpower and administrative issues and challenges, while collaborating with other corporate interfaces. Tech stars, on the other hand, were given complete freedom to work within the tech-bubble and focus solely on creating the next groundbreaking product.

Changing the rules of the game

Riding the waves oftheir technological excellence, CBD developed innovative products and their market value continued to rise, and a few years later they were successfully purchased by a large global corporation. This success story could have ended with “and they lived happily ever after”, except for one problem: the buyer was not fond of the two-headed leadership system, and cancelled it upon purchase.

The managers, who were already trained to lead with an entrepreneurial-organizational mindset, immediately began to connect with the buyer’s parallel divisions and created new professional and personal networks and opportunities.

Contrastingly, the tech-stars entered a state of paralysis. In all their years at CBD, the only thing they were required to lead was product development. Even though they were excellent engineers, they were clueless about how to create opportunities, negotiate, think proactively, manage budgets, define structures and teams, let alone cultivate relationships. The rules of the game had changed, and not only did they no-longer know how to play - they didn’t feel it was important to learn how. Sadly, they gradually left CBD and compromised for less-prestigious positions in other organizations.

Power Skills: anything but soft

Until recently, these important skills were mistakenly called soft skills, or otherwise referred to by numerous executives as “HR mumbo-jumbo”. Yet researchers have recently become increasingly concerned by the direct link between soft skills and the quality of business results. Among them, an IBM survey among executives found that the most important features for effective work, are behavioral.

During an interview, Elon Musk once claimed that leading Business Schools no longer provided students with relevant executive tools for today’s disruptive business world. While most Ivy league Deans were outraged by his remark, prominent business leaders and management experts couldn’t agree more.

In his research - based article Let’s Stop Talking About Soft Skills: They’re PowerSkills, employment guru Josh Bersin describes a mindset shift in recruitment and training processes in the workplace, due to the impact of Emotional Intelligence and “soft skills” on business results. Case studies presented in the article prove that while technology is evolving exponentially, it will always remain inferior to humanity. Bersin suggests replacing the demoting term “soft skills” with “power skills” and explains, that unlike cognitive intelligence (I.Q) which is established by age 3, emotional intelligence (E.I) is a life-long evolving process. As such, its necessity in our complex, tech-based world, and its value in Human Capital aspects, is constantly increasing.

Mind the Gap

In a world where new knowledge quickly becomes outdated, the know-how to learn, erase and re-learn is far more essential than any SAT score, academic degree, or even previous professional experience. While those are still considered door-openers, they’re no longer enough to develop in complex organizational systems.

Power skills such as self-awareness and criticism, ego management, learning from mistakes and managing diverse, complex relationships in times of uncertainty are crucial for our personal and professional development. It’s important we devote time and money to master these skills, even if our workplace doesn’t provide relevant learning frameworks.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to hear an excellent lecture by Professor Tal Ben Shahar from Harvard University, on an executive theory called Nobody is Coming. It measures a leader’s responsibility by his or her ability to address problems directly instead of passing them over to others. In other words, leaders cannot wait for others to save them, but rather become their own saviors. Those who wish to lead, influence, and develop in a world of disruption must acknowledge the importance of power skills, harness them, leverage them, and close all gaps.

Nili Goldfein — EVP Marketing & Business Development at NGG Global Consulting Solutions, specializing in Leadership and Management in a World of Disruption.




Nili Goldfein is EVP Business Development & Marketing for NGG Global Consulting. With over 30 years in the field she is creating and running global business.

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Nili Goldfein

Nili Goldfein

Nili Goldfein is EVP Business Development & Marketing for NGG Global Consulting. With over 30 years in the field she is creating and running global business.

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