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ICYMI: The Value of Timeless Leadership Skills

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Although students must gain technical proficiency to succeed in the workplace, they won’t be leaders unless they develop human-centric skills.

  • One of the most essential competencies is the ability to communicate—in person, in writing, in politically charged situations, and in times of turmoil.
  • Another critical skill is the ability to build relationships with co-workers and clients, especially in challenging conditions under tight deadlines.
  • When students develop active listening skills, they will become stronger negotiators and better team players.

As advancements in technology transform the workplace, today’s business students need to master a range of technological skills so they are prepared to be tomorrow’s top executives. But while these technical abilities will become increasingly necessary, traditional soft skills remain just as crucial.

Finding the right balance between the two has been an ongoing theme for AACSB Insights during the month of February. One author who explores that balance is Karina Ochis in her article “Navigating the AI Revolution.” While she believes students must understand the basics of artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and cybersecurity, she also stresses the importance of “durable” skills such as critical thinking, communication, and ethical judgment.

Her list aligns with the competencies identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which regularly surveys companies to learn what qualities they look for in new graduates. In NACE’s April 2023 report, the top answers were problem-solving skills, the ability to work in teams, a strong work ethic, analytical and quantitative skills, communication skills, and technical skills.

Over the years, contributors to AACSB Insights have discussed the importance of these and other business competencies. In case you missed them, here’s a recap of a dozen recent articles in which authors suggest specific traits students should cultivate—and outline actions schools can undertake to help learners become leaders.

Be Adaptable

In an era of rapid social, economic, and technological upheaval, everyone must be prepared to handle change, writes Oscar Ybarra in “Teaching the One Skill Employers Desire Most.” Yes, tomorrow’s managers will need to cope with large external forces. But they’ll also have to deal with “smaller internal shifts in the workplace” that include ill-defined challenges, ongoing resource constraints, and shifting leadership roles.

Ybarra encourages students to cultivate adaptability by adopting a four-part framework in which they learn what they can do, what they will do, what they can do alone, and what they must do with others. He says, “The more adaptable employees are, the more they will be able to respond to the diverse and dynamic changes that occur across projects, collaborators, technologies, and time horizons.”

Communicate Clearly…

One of the most essential skills leaders must possess is “The Power of Communication,” say Caron Martinez and Sara Weinstock. This skill is particularly important for two groups: leaders who are explaining sustainability benefits to stakeholders and entrepreneurs who are describing their new ideas to potential consumers and investors.

Communication skills are especially important for leaders explaining the benefits of sustainability and entrepreneurs describing their new ideas.

To help students develop their powers of communication, the Kogod School of Business at American University has launched the Center for Professionalism and Communications. Through the center’s offerings—which include design-thinking workshops, coaching and feedback sessions, and service project opportunities—students develop their skills in critical thinking, creativity, communication, and empathy.

…Especially in Writing

In “Plain Language Is Best for Business Communication,” Meg Geddy, Ward Risvold, and Micheal Stratton outline a business communication course offered at the Georgia College & State University’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business and Technology.

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