The Softer Side of Leadership: Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead, By Eugene B. Habecker

The Softer Side of Leadership

Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead

by Eugene B. Habecker
With Marylou Habecker

The Softer Side of Leadership
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.5 in
  • Published: February 13, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0946
  • ISBN: 9781514009468

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Many who lead or who aspire to lead rightly champion the importance of hard skills. These are skills that are informed by quantitative measurement and analytical thinking, among others. Knowing the numbers, embracing leadership tasks, and implementing the right strategies are important but no longer enough to be an effective leader. Indeed, the best of the leadership literature consistently emphasizes the importance of soft skills as this quote illustrates: "The capabilities required of top leaders include new and often ‘softer’ skills that are rarely explicitly recognized or fostered in the corporate world." (Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2022, p.42)

In The Softer Side of Leadership, Dr. Habecker, who spent 35 consecutive years as a CEO of two universities and one large NYC non-profit, makes the case for the integration of soft skills into every aspect of the leader’s personal life and the organizational agenda. He draws from his own experience, that of other international colleagues, the leadership literature, and from the Scriptures.

The first part of the book focuses on the soft skills that help to continuously fuel the healthy development of the leader’s spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional foundations. The second part focuses on the skills that drive organizational effectiveness and contribute to healthier cultures. Each chapter includes "The Chapter Idea" summary and a practical application: "Putting the Idea to Work."

The essential idea of the book is this: As readers develop their soft skill competencies, including the skills, behaviors, practices, and disciplines presented in The Softer Side of Leadership, and combine them with their hard skill competencies, they will be better equipped to be more effective as leaders which will likely result in both healthier personal lives and healthier organizations.

"Gene Habecker gifts readers a salient reflection on what matters most in leadership. He pushes back against the common cultural view of leadership that exalts power, authority, busyness, and yes . . . even competence. Instead, he highlights the importance of the many soft skills and character traits that prove foundational for leadership that is deeply rooted, impactful, and timeless."

Shirley V. Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

"This book will go with me when I travel and stay on my desk when I am at home. It will be a resource to me and one to share with others working to combine the soft and hard skills required for effective leadership. . . . This is not a casual read. It will require reflection, and this will require time, or as Gene writes, some sacred space. A commitment to finding such space is important, and reading this book will make this worth the effort."

R. Dale Lefever, organizational consultant and emeritus faculty at the University of Michigan Medical School

"What a good book! I was really challenged by it. It represents a holistic approach to leadership and provides practical ideas on the behaviors, habits, disciplines, and attitudes that leaders must learn and develop that ultimately lead to organizational transformation. Dr. Habecker's style will keep you engaged by providing constructive and relevant examples from more than thirty years as president/CEO. Prepare to be challenged, empowered, and motivated to cultivate the softer side of leadership."

Manuel Rosado, president of Spectrum Investment Advisors, Inc.

"While there are religious examples in this book, it has invaluable information for anyone who reads it. . . . This book is good for potential leaders as well as for those who want to be more successful in their leadership positions."

Rhonda Jeter, professor and dean of the College of Education at Bowie State University

"There are many good business books that answer the question, How is great leadership experienced? Topics range from how to build a great team, to the importance of clear strategic direction, to operational excellence, to a myriad of like topics. The Softer Side of Leadership addresses a different issue: How is mature leadership developed? The book is a robust exploration of the deep interior work necessary to be a leader of substance. . . . We need this brand of leadership. We need this book."

Thomas Addington, cofounder and chair of Givington's

"The Softer Side of Leadership . . . is an excellent resource to master relationships and culture, critical components to effectively lead organizational change."

Albert Reyes, president of Buckner International

"I needed this book. I needed the vivid reminders, the fresh insights, and the compelling perspectives. Frankly, I don't ever remember reading a book on leadership that I didn't want to put down. Until this one. One chapter after another provided conviction, grace, and hope. They were a magnet to my heart, water to a thirsty soul. Gene Habecker has been a leader I've respected for many years. His insights are tested and true. Honesty, humility, and wisdom mark each page. Prepare to be inspired."

Dan Wolgemuth, president emeritus of Youth for Christ

"The Softer Side of Leadership is filled with practical wisdom from Gene Habecker's many decades of experience in board rooms and presidencies. I read this book when I was preparing to take the helm of a large organization with a long legacy. Although I am still working to apply its guidance, I have found it immensely helpful. Leaders are shepherds of people, and Habecker shows how we must commit ourselves to the interpersonal skills and sensitivities that our roles require or else we will burn ourselves out and burn those around us. I only wish I had read the book sooner."

Tim Dalrymple, president and CEO of Christianity Today

"Gene Habecker has authored an important book on leadership. As many followers in organizations have experienced, smart and competent leaders that lack emotional intelligence and soft skills can result in a toxic environment and yield poor results. Gene identifies the need for leaders to form habits that lead to spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical well-being. This focus of building a healthy self has been missing in much of the leadership literature. I am glad Gene has helped fill that gap."

Dave Beré, chairman of Stir Foods and former chair at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena

"Having personally witnessed the profound transformation facilitated by Gene Habecker's executive coaching in numerous nonprofits, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to leaders who aspire to embody excellence and compassion. Through captivating storytelling, profound insights, and practical principles, Gene inspires, challenges, and expertly guides readers in building leadership capacity and effectiveness through qualities such as authenticity, empathy, and emotional intelligence. The book offers a sustainable approach to leadership that empowers both leaders and the organizations they serve."

Kimberly C. Thornbury, vice president of nonprofit leadership and development at MJ Murdock Charitable Trust


Dedication and Acknowledgments


Section I: Soft Skills: The Personal Dimension
Effective Leaders . . .
1. Protect Sacred Space and Enable Deep Thinking
2. Build a Foundation for Leadership
3. Welcome Self-Discovery Learning
4. Stay Connected to the Heart
5. Practice Consistent Fitness Renewal

Section II: Soft Skills: The Organizational Dimension
Effective Leaders . . .
6. Cultivate Creativity
7. Enhance Trust
8. Ensure Personal and Organizational Accountability
9. Embrace the Power of Forgiveness
10. Follow and Lead, Lead and Follow
11. Understand That the Greatest Soft Skill Is Love



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Gene Habecker

Eugene B. Habecker holds degrees from Taylor University (BA), Ball State University (MA), and the University of Michigan (PhD); a law degree (JD) from Temple University; a certificate from the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) at Harvard University; and nine honorary degrees. He is an author, speaker, and educator and has served for thirty-five years in presidential/CEO leadership roles. Gene and his wife, Marylou, have been blessed with three married children and seven grandchildren.