Typically, during your first job after graduation, the technical skills in your career field are very important because most tasks are very technical in nature. Additionally, initial advancements are earned primarily on how well you executed those technical skills.
However, the rate at which you move up in responsibility will increasingly be based on how well you also execute non-technical, soft skills (such as communication, team building, and non-technical problem-solving). Studies by the Carnegie Foundation, Stanford, and Harvard all conclude that one’s success at the highest levels of leadership will be based on 85% leadership (soft) skills and only 15% technical skills. The following table shows an approximation of the importance of various leadership skills at various levels of responsibility.
One important outcome of this situation is that higher-level managers usually have less resistance to career changes because they will primarily be using Leadership Skills learned “on-the-job,” rather than technical skills learned in college.
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