Soft Leadership—Myths and Truths

Adapted from “Soft Leadership: An Innovative Leadership Style to Resolve Conflicts Amicably through Soft Skills and Negotiation Skills to Achieve Global Stability, Peace and Prosperity” by Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” —Warren G. Bennis

Soft leadership can be applied to companies and countries. Companies can explore this concept to improve their organizational bottom lines and countries to achieve peace and prosperity. Since it is a new concept, there are many myths around it. Here are some myths and truths about soft leadership.

Myth # 1: Soft Leadership Is Being Soft with People

The truth is that soft leadership banks on people skills to lead people effectively. It emphasizes emotional intelligence with people orientation without compromising task-orientation. Succinctly, soft leadership is a combination of people skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. Soft leaders respect the dignity of labor. They value people as people, not as employees. They respect everyone irrespective of their rank and position, from janitors to CEOs.

Myth # 2: Soft Leadership Is Servant Leadership

The truth is that soft leadership is about handling people with soft skills, persuasive skills, and negotiation skills to get tasks executed effectively. In contrast, servant leadership is about serving others with a servant heart. Additionally, servant leadership has 10 characteristics:

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of people
  10. Building community

Soft leadership actually has 11 characteristics:

  1. Character
  2. Charisma
  3. Conscience
  4. Conviction
  5. Courage
  6. Communication
  7. Compassion
  8. Commitment
  9. Consistency
  10. Consideration
  11. Contribution

Hence, soft leadership is different from servant leadership.

Myth # 3: Soft Leadership Is Charismatic Leadership

Soft leadership prefers character to charisma. There are many charismatic leaders who looked for their survival rather than to leave their legacies. They did not build the next generation of leaders for fear of losing their position to their successors during their lifetime. Soft leadership emphasizes character and believes in building the next generation of leaders and making a difference in the lives of others.

Myth # 4: Soft Leadership Is About Soft Power

Soft leadership is about using soft skills to handle people successfully. People are different and have unique egos, emotions, and feelings. Managing them is a big challenge. Soft skills help in leading them effectively.

Myth # 5: Soft Leadership Is Submissive Leadership

The truth is that soft leadership is neither submissive leadership nor lame duck leadership. In contrast, it is an assertive leadership that believes in win-win for all stakeholders. It neither believes in aggressive nor submissive leadership. It is the art of leading politely and pleasingly to communicate with others to get tasks executed effectively. It is the craft of leading politely but firmly to accomplish organizational goals and objectives.

Myth # 6: Soft Leadership Is Transformational Leadership

The truth is that both leadership styles are different. Soft leadership comprises 11 Cs, while transformational leadership presented by Bernard M. Bass and Bruce J. Avolio comprises four Is:

  • Inspirational motivation
  • Idealized influence
  • Individualized consideration
  • Intellectual stimulation

Transformational leaders lead followers to levels of higher morals. Soft leadership involves handling people with soft skills and people skills to get tasks executed effectively, while transformational leadership involves transforming the individuals and institutions with the help of 4Is. Additionally, according to James MacGregor Burns, with transformational leadership, both the leader and the follower lift each other to higher levels of morality and motivation.

Myth # 7: Soft Leadership Is Integrative Leadership

Soft leadership is leading all stakeholders of an organization or a community from a people perspective, while integrative leadership is leading all stakeholders in a reflective, conscious, and responsive way as per the organization’s vision, mission, and values. Integrative leadership involves utilizing four domains of intelligence—mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional—and cultivating three levels of awareness—transactional, transformational, and transcendent or holistic.

Myth # 8: Soft Leadership Is Participative Leadership

The truth is that soft leadership believes in partnership where there are no followers and leaders. It follows a collegial model of leadership. Presently, Gen Yers appreciate working with partners, not with bosses and leaders. In contrast, participative leadership is a leadership style in which team members are involved in the decision-making and their input is considered for discussion and debate. After weighing all the pros and cons, the collective decision is taken. Hence, both leadership styles are different.

Myth # 9: Soft Leadership Is Behavioral Leadership

The truth is that soft leadership deals with personality, attitude, and behavior with people orientation without compromising task orientation. In contrast, behavioral leadership is based on behavioral theory. It focuses on the behavior of the leader and what leaders do and how they act.

This article was adapted from “Soft Leadership: An Innovative Leadership Style to Resolve Conflicts Amicably through Soft Skills and Negotiation Skills to Achieve Global Stability, Peace and Prosperity” by Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.,

International leadership guru Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is a leadership educator, executive coach, speaker, and consultant. He has 36 years of experience, and is the author of 36 books, including the award-winning “21 Success Sutras for CEOs” (http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Ceos-Rao/dp/162865290X). His book, “21 Success Sutras for Leaders (http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Leaders-ebook/dp/B00AK98ELI), was ranked as one of the Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year―2013 by San Diego University. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. His vision is to build 1 million students as global leaders by 2030 (http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.in/2014/12/professor-m-s-raos-vision-2030-one_31.html). Dr. Rao serves as an advisor and judge for several international organizations, including Global Leadership Awards in Malaysia, Middle East Business Leaders Summits & Awards in Dubai, and Small Business Book Awards in the United States. His published books are available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/M.-S.-Rao/e/B00MB63BKM. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs: http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.in, http://profmsr.blogspot.com, http://professormsrao.blogspot.com and http://professormsraoguru.blogspot.com. E-mail him at msrlctrg@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/professormsrao

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