“Hard is soft. Soft is Hard” …What really matters?

In 1982 Tom Peters co-wrote In Search of Excellence. This book became an international best seller which, according to Wikipedia, “one of the biggest selling and most widely read business books ever, selling 3 million copies in its first four years”. By Peters own admission* the biggest takeaway from that book was the simple motto: “Hard is soft. Soft is Hard”.

In the cut and thrust of our full lives it does seem beyond reason that content knowledge, as well as technical, strategic and financial skills could possibly make way for the interpersonal, but these are the skills we need for success in life. They transcend any particular discipline and context. Things like:

  • People and relationships
  • Influencing
  • Core values
  • Showing appreciation and gratitude
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Team-building

This is the real “hard stuff”. It makes sense that deliberately focussing on these skills has a positive affect on the workplace. In the corporate world recruitment no longer solely focuses on business skills but recruits are assessed on a range of soft skill competencies, including how well they relate to and communicate with others.

Here’s the challenge for school leaders, these skills need to become core to the PD programs if we are to:

  • model skills to students
  • provide balance in this high-tech, electronically connected world
  • recruit and retain graduates in the profession
  • grow and develop the next generation of leaders

It is another example of moving away from the factory model of work and schooling, where hierarchy is softened and the dignity and contribution of all are valued.

Let’s see soft skills become a core element of professional development for educators.

(* in his most recent book The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence)

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