Top skills for executives: It's all about communication

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Studies on the digital transformation are lately like sand and a hype term chasing the next. A recent meta-study has examined 30 studies from recent years and found out which leadership skills really matter. One result, inter alia, of humanity is more important than IT skills.

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Simone Janson is a publisher and board member of the Berufebilder Yourweb Foundation.

The big surprise: it is humanely in Company

From my point of view, this is the big surprise: communication ability is also the most important competence for executives, especially in the digital age. In 70% of studies and surveys I was named as relevant. Immediately behind this is human orientation, which is mentioned in 50% of the studies.

This includes expectations such as' appreciation '(23%) as well as' respectful dealing', 'employee orientation', 'approach' and 'employees' understanding' (all 3%). On the ranks three to five are the competences 'transparency', 'networking ability' as well as 'trust' - all with 37% mentions.

Methodology of the study

What I like about the study is that the Frankfurt-based institute for leadership culture in the digital age (IFIDZ) did not carry out the tiniest of its own studies, but rather evaluated the almost unclear mass of studies that already exist on the subject. Good thing that someone has done.

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Specifically, 30 studies and surveys from the years 2012 to July 2016 were evaluated with 18.274 respondents. The focus was on German-language primary studies and surveys from the years 2012 to July 2016, which could be identified via literature and internet research (Google, Bing and Google Scholar). A period of only five years was chosen to ensure the timeliness of the results.

diversity of methods

The primary studies and surveys are characterized by a diversity of methods - with a focus on quantitative surveys. More than half of the studies and surveys (54%) were determined quantitatively - through online surveys or telephone interviews. One quarter (26%) is based on expert interviews. 10% of studies and surveys are based on personal interviews with executives, while in the case of further 10% a standardized survey was supplemented by expert talks.

In the end, the IFIDZ produced a ranking of the most frequently mentioned competencies. It is clear that executives still continue to demand interpersonal skills from executives.

Silicon Valley competencies in Germany are not much in demand

The high importance of communicability is underlined, for example, by the fact that individual aspects of communication are explicitly mentioned as relevant competencies such as 'giving feedback' (23%), 'listening' (10%) and 'analogue before digital' (7% , Typical digital competences such as 'data comprehension' or 'IT competences', on the other hand, are far behind, with 17% of the nominations on the 25 and 27 places.

Skills associated with the way of working and the philosophy of “Silicon Valley” were also mentioned relatively rarely or not at all. These include, for example, agility (10%) or disruptive thinking (10%), which were only mentioned in studies in individual years. Not mentioned at all or willingness to experiment (0%) as well as or willingness to take risks! (0%) that were not mentioned at all.

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Need for improvement in analogue skills

This shows several exciting aspects: on the one hand, the competences of the analogous age continue to dominate the expectations of managers - which is really no miracle, because man knows what he knows.

Concepts such as agility or disruptive thinking, on the other hand, appear to be pure fashion concepts that were hyped in only a certain period of time. This in turn is a pity, because these digital competences are of crucial importance for the future of a company. The rare mention is thus more proof of the short-sightedness of many managers.

Man continues to be the center of attention

The study also shows that classical interpersonal competences are also important in the digital age. The frequent mention of certain terms, such as 'appreciation', ultimately leads to the conclusion that companies and managers are strongly concerned with certain topics, precisely because a defect is perceived in this area.

Especially through digitalisation, competences such as communication, people orientation or networking are gaining in importance, and not a few executives in companies may have noticed that there is often a need for improvement - at least if a company wants to remain competitive in the future.

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