Mostly overlooked, soft skills play a large part in actually keeping ones job. While people are hired for their hard skills like knowledge, oftentimes people get fired for their lack of soft skills. These skills are basically the interpersonal skills, which range from the person’s personality, attitude, and behavior. Having a PhD in Soft Skills, Professor M.S. Rao created a new leadership style called soft leadership and delves deeper into the importance of having soft skills and improving them. He also touched on identifying curiosity with soft skills. Pointing out individuals and generational groups, he talks about the kind of leadership that results from having developed soft skills, which he has since been focusing and done research on. He believes how such skills are vital in building and maintaining a healthy relationship, specifically, one that inspires.
We have Professor M.S. Rao on the show who is a soft skills expert. He has his degrees in soft skills. He’s got a PhD and he’s from India. He’s a well-known guru throughout the world who knows this stuff well. I wanted to talk about this because I deal with soft skills quite a bit with different organizations. They often have me speak about this. I want to preface what Professor Rao was going to talk about because I’ve taught many courses that deal with this important topic. I’ve attended many conferences and what you keep hearing are how people are hired for their skills and fired for their behaviors.
There are many things that people consider soft skills. It can be thinking critically, interpreting, analyzing, having vision, having integrity, interpersonal skills. Maybe emotional intelligence areas can fall into this. Communication and listening are big ones. Dr. Rao and I are going to talk about servant leadership and some of the other aspects that may fall in this area. As an instructor, you have to be able to help students with their technical knowledge and their behavioral skills. There are many leaders out there that have been known for having great soft skills.
Doug Conant has been on the show. He helped people with engagement and he’s very inspirational. Marshall Goldsmith and all his group are all interesting consultants who have helped with that type of thing. We hear examples of people who may not have the best soft skills. Steve Jobs is often listed as somebody who probably could have done better with his humility and some of the things when he was first with Apple. He got better when he came back the second time, going based on what we hear reported, I’ve never worked with him. Most leaders are not going to have the genius of Steve Jobs and they may have some of these issues though of dealing with people in a way that maybe people don’t appreciate. It’s important that we talk about how we can improve communication issues and solve some of these problems that we’re seeing in the workplace.
With my students, I see a lot of them have gone back to school to get a degree to advance their careers but I meet very few of them that have done a lot to work on these areas. They’re working on accounting, finance and business-related topics, but there’s so much to be learned in the area of behavioral skills. When you talk to organizations, they deal with a lot of different personality assessments and different things but they don’t always touch on all these important areas. Another area which is interesting that we debate a lot about in my courses are whether leaders born or made and if you have these innate skills or if you can learn different things.
I’m writing my book, Cracking the Curiosity Code, which is about the factors that impact curiosity. We’re all born with a certain level of behaviors and skills that maybe are impacted. With curiosity, for example in my research, I found that it’s not just fear but there are also our assumptions of what we think we would be interested in or not interested in. Technology is doing things for us or making us apprehensive to learn things and our environment of what we’ve learned. With soft skills, a lot of what our parents’ behaviors were and those around us can be a big factor. The heritability that is the next skills you bring to the table is estimated to be for leadership skills.
They say about 24% is genetic and 76% learned according to a Forbes article I read. There are other studies that put it to be about close to 30% versus 70%. In general, the good news is this stuff can be learned, that is the point. If we look at some of the skills that can be built, it’s something that more courses need to be arranged so that they can incorporate this into the college environment and high school. They focus a lot on critical thinking and critical thinking occurs when there’s analysis and evaluation and that type of thing. That’s very important and I would say that schools are good at that part. They’re good at ethics and even emotional intelligence, they’re starting to get more much more heavily involved in.
When I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence, I found that empathy was a big part of what I’d like to see developed and interpersonal skills. All the aspects of emotional intelligence are a little bit different based on which researcher’s work you look at and how they define it. It’s basically understanding your own emotions in those and others and then acting appropriately based on what you’ve learned. A lot of the credit needs to be given to Tony Alessandra for his way of saying it’s no longer the golden rule of treating others as you’d want to be treated, that it’s the platinum rule of you want to treat others as they would want to be treated. That is hard for people because they have to be able to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
That takes quite a bit of empathy. We look at jobs of what they’re looking for in terms of skills and what people are doing to be successful. Forbes reported that 46% of newly hired employees will fail within eighteen months. A lot of that is due to miscommunication, interpersonal skills and all the things that we’ll talk about soft skills. It’s important to think about some of the questions that might determine if you need improvement. Do you listen more than you speak? What verbal and nonverbal cues are others receiving from you? If you’re getting in a lot of personality conflict issues at work, you might consider some of these, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills that might be an issue.
Being adaptable to change is important and how you manage your time. There are so many things that the new employees need to have help with. I’d like to see people be more motivated to go above and beyond at work. That’s why I did a lot of my research in curiosity. There isn’t a quote out there from Einstein that doesn’t revolve around curiosity because he said so much about the importance of it. There’s so much attention that we’re seeing in terms of engagement, culture, the problems in the workplace with generational conflict and how people react in crisis situations.
We’re seeing a lot of focus on some of the things that fall into personality. I know both Amy Cuddy and Susan Cain had a great talk on TED about introversion and those types of things. I’d like to see more focus on ways to improve in other areas like curiosity. There’s a lot of research in the area of whether people are curious or not. Maybe some of the things are based around what impacts curiosity, but it’s important to look at drive, motivation, and finding your why and all the things that all these great books have researched. What led to my interest in my research was what’s holding people back and where do you go from there.
It’s almost like an emotional intelligence where you have to get a baseline and look at the basic area. This is where I am and this is how I can improve from here. In any self-assessment, you’re going to have your own interpretation, of course. With my research, I built in questions to determine if their responses were honest and accurate. What I found interesting was there is some overlap and some of the factors that can impact curiosity. For example, technology could be a problem because it’s doing things for us. It could also cause us fear so fear in technology can overlap. For a lot of people, the biggest issue for curiosity can be fear because no one wants to look stupid.
We don’t want to ask the question that everybody else in the room is thinking. We don’t want to look foolish or think everybody else probably knows the answer so, “Why would I ask that?” Usually, other people in the room are thinking the same thing, “Will somebody please ask this question?” I also found environment to be a big factor because we have so much that we are impacted by with our family, with our teachers, with our peers, and with social media. A lot of people, when they want to become curious and look into areas, it’s based on whether they like something in the past. When you were a kid, if you read something you thought that was boring, suddenly that topic is off the docket from then on. We’re not going to look at that because it seemed boring at the time.
A lot of people have preconceived ideas of what they think will interest them. All these different areas of skills are things that I hope we’ll see more of in education because the future of education is going to become a little bit more select this and select that instead of this is the program, it’s all or nothing kind of thing. As we start to get smaller bits of content that we like to read and learn, instead of having entire graduate degrees or entire programs, I worry that we might lose some of the soft skills, the humanities, and the different elements that glue or hold our education together. That’s my only concern of doing the à la carte kind of education. I do love the à la carte education for the fact that you can take the course like Steve Jobs did when he took calligraphy that led to the fonts that changed the world with Apple later.
I’d like to be able to see us take more courses that we want to take instead of taking only courses that we have to take. Unfortunately, it has been a lot of that in the past. A lot of these courses could incorporate some of the things that Dr. Rao and a lot of my colleagues and I try to incorporate in the courses that we teach. I see a lot of great work with critical thinking but some of these other areas can be very important to incorporate as well.
Listen to the podcast here:
Soft Leadership with Professor M.S. Rao
I am here with Professor M.S. Rao, PhD who is the father of Soft Leadership and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants in India. He is an international leadership guru with 37 years of experience and the author of more than 40 books, including the award winning 21 Success Sutras for CEO. It’s so nice to have you here, Professor Rao.
Thank you, Diane, for giving me this wonderful opportunity. It’s a great honor to be part of your show.
It’s my honor. I’m very interested in your work because you have a degree in soft leadership. Is that what your PhD is in Soft Leadership?
I have my PhD in Soft Skills.
I speak a lot about soft skills and I was interested that they have a degree in soft skills. I didn’t realize that there was that focus. That is a very interesting degree. A lot of people are confused by what soft skills are. Can you explain what soft skills are?
There are many people across the globe that still don’t have clarity about soft skills. Whenever I deliver training programs especially in India among who speaks fluently are expert in soft skills. Communication skill is a soft skill. That’s the way people see it. To clarify all the things, I wrote an article and got it published. I have looked deep in the midst of soft skills, because people call it with different names. Basically, soft skills are all about your personality, attitude and behavior. These are all interpersonal skills which are very much required from janitor to CEO. Nowadays, most of the corporate started relating the importance of soft skills. There are some corporates who are conducting soft skills training program. These soft skills training programs are armoring too these leadership training programs in some of the business schools. It is catching up. It is very much required. Soft skills are very much required apart from hard skills.
In most of the meetings that I attend, people and leaders get up on stage and say they hire people for their knowledge or their hard skills, but they often fire them because of their lack of soft skills. Where do you think people should learn soft skills? Do you think it’s something that they should learn in school or at work or why aren’t people developing better soft skills?
This is also important somewhat to what you said in a different way. People are hired for hard skills and people fired due to lack of soft skills. People get into the corporate world because of hard skills and because of soft skills they reach the pinnacle of their career. We can also put it somewhat like that. Soft skills are very much required at the corporate level and these skills should be taught at the grad school level itself. Gradually people are realizing the importance of soft skills and hopefully by teaching soft skills students will be able to get employment, especially the students who want to enter the corporate world.
That’s one way, at the same time in the corporate world also, people have to be taught how to behave with others, with their colleagues, superiors, and subordinates. For that soft skills are required. If people are equipped with soft skills there will be less organizational politics, less conflict, there will be more productivity, there will be more performance and there will be friendlier ambiance in the corporate world. It is very much emphasized not only in the educational institution, even in the corporate world about the importance of soft skills.
I’m curious in all of your training, have you dealt with anything that focuses on curiosity? You and I have had a conversation about my work with curiosity and some of the things that I think curiosity impacts are the things you just mentioned: productivity, engagement and being effective at work. Having that ability to develop curiosity is very important. Is that a soft skill in your opinion or is it more of a personality thing? Do you think that we can develop curiosity in other people?
Basically, people are very curious. If you look at children, they are highly observant and more curious. They are more creative but as they get older, the creativity level and curiosity level drops. People got curiosity because from being children they keep learning and they keep growing. There are some people who are very curious and because of that they keep learning and growing. As one gets older it decreases but in rare cases there are some extraordinary individuals who maintain curiosity and they keep learning and growing so gradually they become great leaders.
Many great leaders keep reading books because they are very curious to learn various things. Look at Bill Gates, he reads so many books, not only Bill Gates but the likes of Warren Buffet. All these people keep reading good books because they are curious to learn how things are happening. They also want to acquire knowledge from other areas, apart from what they are already experts in. Curiosity decreases as one gets older but it will remain in some people who are extraordinary individuals.
When you talk about extraordinary individuals and their curiosity for areas that they’re not usually studying, it brings to mind Naveen Jain. He is a billionaire and a leader who has done very well and he has told me that he likes to learn about topics that he knows nothing about to go into industries and start from scratch and learn everything he can from a whole new perspective that he hasn’t been taught before. Do you think that we can instill that level of curiosity in people?
A lot of people are afraid to learn something new because they think they’ll fail or they assume they won’t like whatever it is that were the topic, because they didn’t like it as a kid or maybe they think the computer can figure it out for them or even their environment, their family, their friends or their teachers just didn’t encourage these things. Do you think that we need to open ourselves up to realizing that maybe what we didn’t like when we were young is something that we have to refocus our attention to learn new things in adulthood? How do we open up that ability to be more open to learning new things?
I had been listening to your podcast. Some of the people I’ve listened to like Marshall Goldsmith, Nick Morgan, Dov Baron who also conducted podcast in the past. The one you’re talking about, Naveen Jain, one thing I learned from him is that you can’t become a successful leader by acting like a successful leader. “You can become successful by thinking like successful people and by applying the principle of successful people,” that’s what he said. It’s not acting like successful people. People need to open up to learn new things so that they can be able to acquire knowledge from various peers.Curiosity decreases as one gets older but it will remain in some people who are extraordinary individuals. Click To Tweet
What I meant by that was if you have teachers or friends or family that tells you, “You should only like this kind of thing or that kind of thing,” our environment impacts what we want to try or what we think is okay or popular to do. Many people get held back by their environment. Is that something that you’re seeing in India? You go around the world and you talk to different groups. Do you see the environment impacts people in different ways in different countries as far as what holds them back from being curious?
The typical Indian mindset of the students is that, because I worked as professor for various educational institutions in India, most of the students learn from teachers. They spend most of the time within the educational institution, so they’re learning from teachers and educators. Partly they also learn from their parents and from their society. For the last four, five years, the Indian students are now more exposed to technology. They’re highly impacted by these and they keep learning online from various resources. There’s a dramatic shift within the Indian students for the last four to five years because of smart phones and everything. They started learning online and by Googling everything, they’re learning.
What I would like to say is that learning has change for the last five years within India, of course the same thing goes even in America and other European countries, where people are highly advance in terms of thinking, indulgence and the way they approach the solutions. The one thing I find is that no amount of economics can replace the teachers and trainers, that’s what I tell my student. They can learn many things online and you can learn some things by a moment, but teachers and trainers can never be replaced in this world. That’s what I emphasized with my students and the message I carry everywhere.
Have you ever taught any online courses or have they all been in person, traditional courses?
I’ve never taught online, mostly I was invited to various webinars and podcasts. I uploaded some of the videos and keep sharing my knowledge with that, but I have never conducted on line courses. I think you are very smart in conducting online courses. I listened to one of your podcasts conducted for Steve Forbes, you’re working in Forbes school, I believe?
I was the MBA Program Chair in Forbes School of Business.
I’ve never conducted any online courses as of the present. Hopefully, I will be conducting in the future.
Online education has changed a lot for more than twelve years now and it has developed. It’s nice to be able to reach people from all around the world and that’s what you try to do with all of your work, with your books, is to reach people all around the world. You’ve had some interesting different books. I know that his holiness, the Dalai Lama, wrote the prologue for one of your books. You have incorporated different soft skills, sutras and different things within your books. What made you interested in many different topics? How many books have you written?
About soft skills or in general?
In general, all of them.
I have written 52 books. Out of 40 books, around six books are about soft skills. There’s a huge demand for soft skills books across the world. I’ve written books on soft skills. One more book is to be published. I even contributed research in the Emerald Journal and that will be published within a month. Many journals also published my intellectual contributions on soft skills. There are huge issues in the area of soft skills globally. There are no other educators who have done PhD in soft skills. Since I have done PhD in Soft Skills, it’s certainly an asset for me. After completion of my PhD, I explored and still keep doing research on soft skills. Since I’m passionate about leadership, having come from Indian Air Force, what I did is I bind this leadership and soft skills and then I created a new leadership style called Soft Leadership.
This is a kind of leadership which is unconventional. I hope it will be highly appreciated by millennials because they are very smart generation. This is what I noticed during my leadership training programs then I created a new leadership style because many audiences are saying they’re not happy with the current leadership styles. I did a research in soft leadership
I teach so many courses in leadership and a lot of them deal with servant leadership, Robert Greenleaf’s principles. There are so many areas to leadership, what I find interesting is the differences in generations. Have you dealt at all with looking at millennials versus baby boomers? I don’t know if those are terms you use so much in India as we use here, but the different generations, are seeing that soft skills are embraced more by older or younger employees? What is your leadership show for that?
I have one more book on Millennials, Soft Leadership for Millennials. Since I have done research on soft leadership I thought that leadership can appoint for the Millennials. I even conducted workshop for two days in Malaysia. Millennials are very ambitious and there’s a gap between the various generations across the world, like the baby boomers and generation X. These millennials are highly demanding. They are impatient in their way to success. With that, I found both strengths and weaknesses but I found more of strengths so I wrote a book on millennials also. This soft leadership which I created can be applied to bridge that gap among various generations so that there won’t be many conflicts in the workplace and they will be able to work well as a team and achieve excellence.
It is interesting to see how each generation progresses. It seems like every generation find something they don’t like about the next generation. Getting everybody to work together, it’s going to be very important. I was interested in other works that you do and I’m curious about your YouTube channel that you have because I’m seeing you exercising. Can you explain what you’re doing on that channel?
At fifteen onwards I had been going to gym because I wanted to serve my country. I was very lean. Then, I joined the Indian Air Force. After I left the Air Force I continued going to gym. I do one hour of daily exercises, an hour walking to the gym and coming back to the gym. What happened is our Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi started one slogan, “If all Indians are fit, India will be fit.” Since I’m a fitness freak and I enjoy doing a lot of physical activities every day, I thought I should always set an example to my students, especially millennials.
I went to gym and took photos and then I started uploading videos. I’m getting good responses. If you want to live nowadays, if you simply preach, nobody will listen. You have to practice. That’s what Mahatma Gandhi said. Most people preach but they don’t practice. What I thought is, since it’s an opportunity given by the Indian Prime Minister, let me go short listed. Then, I took some photos and videos and I started uploading. My students are my very good fan base and they started liking.
Some people are saying. “Why are you doing these things?” I said, “I’m a professor in college but outside of college I’m not a professor.” It’s my personal life anyhow. It is to encourage any people because so many people have a lot of health complications in India. They are not health conscious, they are not taking care of their fitness, so I thought I’d go to gym and took photos and videos to get them inspired. That’s how my uploading my videos on YouTube and Instagram.
That’s great to get everybody at a much healthier light. I’m a health person too so I can relate to that. I am also looking at your bio and it said you’re part of the C-Suite net advisors’ network, are you associated with Jeff Hayzlett then? Are you part of the C-Suite Network that he has going or is this something different?
No, I’m not into that. What I have done is I created the Vision 2030: One Million Global Leaders. This is the one that I coined. My vision is to build one million students global leaders by 2030. These baby boomers are retiring and millennials are not equipped with leadership skills and responsibilities. Since I belong to Gen-X, I’m the bridge between Baby Boomers and Millennials. I thought it’s a great opportunity to utilize my knowledge and skills for the betterment of global community. I started my vision of one million global leaders that means by 2030 I want to build one million students with leadership skills globally.There's a huge demand for soft skills books across the world. Click To Tweet
Since I fall under Gen-X and the Baby Boomers are retiring, there is gap of leadership talent globally. To fill that gap I thought that this vision will work out. Fortunately, I got an award and I was invited to come to the United States. This is non-profit. I don’t join any groups. I have my own. It’s like every leader, I build a team and create four teams of 50 leaders globally. At the end those people will build leaders. Subsequently, Marshall Goldsmith also came up with his pay it forward scheme. While everyone is to provide free coaching. Even I go to Marshall. The Marshall’s are highly successful globally.
Marshall’s group is a very amazing group and what he’s doing of paying it forward and what you’re doing is important. A lot of people could benefit from learning more about your work, reading about your books and finding out what you’re doing. I was wondering if you could share your website or information now, for anybody who wants to find out more or to get in contact with you.
My name is Professor MS Rao, M for motivation and S for success. If anyone googles Professor MS Rao, they will find my social media platforms. They can also find out Vision 2030: One Million Global Leaders. They can subscribe there and I keep posting articles there regularly. I shared more than 200 posts on LinkedIn and keep sharing my knowledge for free. I joined in Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and publish my articles there frequently. Anybody who wants to acquire free knowledge from me, because I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge, they can follow me on LinkedIn and they can follow my blog Vision 2030: One Million Global Leaders. They can also find me on YouTube and Twitter.
Thank you so much, Professor. You published a lot of great information on LinkedIn. I see so much that you’re doing. A lot of people can benefit from what you’re working on. Thank you for being on the show.
Thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be part of your show.
You are welcome. I want to thank Professor Rao. That was very interesting to hear his perspective on soft skills and some of the information that he deals with all of his books. He’s done amazing work all over the world. I hope you take some time to check out his sites because he’s got some great information there. I also wanted to tell you a little bit more about what you can find on my site now about the curiosity code book that I’m writing. It’s called Cracking the Curiosity Code. I’m expecting it in the next six to eight months. I’m hoping for it to become available. You can sign up to find out more about getting it and you can also sign up to find out more about taking the curiosity code index, which is a curiosity code instrument that I’ve developed to determine factors that influence curiosity.
That’s what was very fascinating to me was not just that people need help with curiosity, but to develop curiosity, you have to figure out what’s inhibiting or impacting curiosity. What’s important is the way that this important personality trait or behavioral trait or whatever you want to consider a curiosity, how much it impacts other areas at work. We have engagement issues and cultural conflict issues. You have so many productivity problems due to people maybe being misaligned in their jobs. It all boils down to so many things that are driven by our curiosity. Once you work on determining the things that excite you in terms of your learning and what you would like to do for work, your engagement is going to improve. Your productivity obviously will improve.
All of these things all tie back into this. I know that there’s a lot of work in areas of emotional intelligence, critical thinking and all the things we’ve talked about. Those are some of the things I looked at in my research for the book. Time’s going to tell what the next big thing is going to be in the workplace. We’ve had so much focus on engagement, on culture, generational conflict, millennials, and all the hot topics. With the increase in artificial intelligence and innovation that you’re going to hear a lot more focus on being innovative. The biggest way to become innovative is to open up your mind to possibilities. To do that you need to develop your ability to think in a critical and curious way.
That was the impetus for why I wrote this book and what I’d like to see is that organizations take a look at it in a way that they looked at emotional intelligence in the past. Employees need to work on these critical skills that maybe are not focused on so much in the education environment. What the assessment is going to do, it’s going to tell people basically how they can come across in four areas, how much fear, how much assumptions, how much technology and how much environment has impacted their desire to be curious. Once you get that, then there is an action plan that will be part of the assessment, not only will you get your level and you will get the action plan.
You’ll get a lot of feedback for each of the issues that maybe holding people back. Through this you would be treating just as you would an engagement survey or some other kind of report like that where leaders and employees can get together and determine a plan of action to help improve in these areas. If people could be aligned better to areas with which they have more interest and things that they hadn’t even considered as a possibility for having interest in because nobody had ever even shared certain ideas with them. It wasn’t even on their radar and I want to get more things on people’s radar. That’s why I wrote the book and that’s why I created the assessment and the assessment was quite challenging. I had to go back, do factor analysis and look at questions to try and pull out the things that make us curious or not curious.If you simply preach, nobody will listen. You have to practice. Click To Tweet
I did a lot of research with people through different groups to see what things do they believed held them back. The same four areas which I use an acronym of fear, assumptions, technology and environment kept coming through very clearly. Those were the main areas that people kept finding as problematic. I hope to take some of this data in the future and look for correlations with other things and this is groundbreaking research in terms of what we were going to find a curiosity impacts. On face value, it seems very apparent to me at least, that we’re going to see great impact as far as engagement, productivity and innovation. That’s going to be the biggest plus for doing this type of thing. If you go to CuriosityCode.com, you can learn more about the forthcoming book and the assessment.
It’s not up yet, but maybe by the time you read this there’ll be more information on that site. You can find out more about all the work that I do on my site. I am a consultant and a speaker. I go to organizations and help them with areas of emotional intelligence, soft skills, engagement, and a lot of the things that we talked about on the show. We’ve heard so much about certain areas of leadership and it’s a fresh new approach to consider the importance of curiosity in the mix of things and more importantly, how can we develop that skill in our employees because if we could do that is going to be a huge step to improving productivity for everybody. The bottom line would be a more effective workplace. I enjoyed having Dr. Rao on the show. I appreciate you joining us here. I hope you join us for the next episode.
About M. S. Rao
- M.S. Rao
- Doug Conant – previous episode
- Cracking the Curiosity Code
- Tony Alessandra
- Amy Cuddy TED Talk
- Susan Cain TED Talk
- MSR Leadership Consultants
- 21 Success Sutras for CEO
- Marshall Goldsmith – previous episode
- Nick Morgan – previous episode
- Dov Baron – previous episode
- Naveen Jain – previous episode
- Steve Forbes – previous episode
- Soft Leadership
- Vision 2030: One Million Global Leaders
- M.S. Rao on LinkedIn
- M.S. Rao on Thrive Global
- M.S. Rao on YouTube
- M.S. Rao on Twitter