(Originally posted on Communicate, Coach, Care: The Central Purpose)

By Bethany Hill

We all know that in order to be successful in roles where networking with others is a necessity, there must be a fine balance between using technical knowledge to know what needs to be accomplished  along with the emotional intelligence regarding the people Hard-softinvolved.  Many refer to these as hard and soft skills. The ability to make things happen, along with ability to effectively lead people, is a conundrum of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that work together to enhance or inhibit a person’s success in a given role.

The table below demonstrates my personal take on a few of the skills we all see in our field of education on a continual basis. Is one side of the table enough? Are there certain situations where exhibiting only one side of the table is appropriate, or are we safe to say that a perfect marriage between the two is the best way to lead?

Hard Skills (IQ) Soft Skills (EQ)
Decisions Empathy
Planning Collaborating
Rules Expectations
Telling Listening
Managing Coaching


Body Language

Hard Skills

We make tough decisions each day as educators. We enforce rules in order to ensure a safe environment for students and staff. We manage behavior of students, whether this be positive or negative. We talk a lot (sometimes way too much!) in order to communicate with students. These are all necessary skills we need to function in our profession! Are they enough? Can they stand alone?

I recall a teacher I had when I was a student in school. She had the left side of the table down pat! She never miscommunicated, and kids always knew where they stood with her. She was precise, and her rules were very simple, as well as the consequences when they were broken. This teacher was fair, professional, and knew her content. She functioned well on the left side of the table…but what about her students?

Soft Skills

Another teacher I have comes to mind when I reflect on the right side of the table. She was always smiling, and knew when kids were having a bad day. She seemed to understand somehow, and I always felt very calm in her class. She took care of the right side of the table, but in a manner where I felt involved in it, as if she was speaking right to me…as if I was the only child in the room. I loved her class! She gave high fives, and even hugs. She was a master of the right side of the table. Her emotional intelligence was extremely high, yet she also had a firm grasp on the left side of the table! The hard skills did not shine through; they lingered in the background and kept the classroom flowing, orderly, and safe. Her soft skills filtered through her and into her students.

Tone and Body Language

Have you ever spoken to a group of people and when you scan the crowd with your eyes, you notice someone leaned back in his chair with arms crossed? When you ask this person to share, the words that come out are spot on, but the tone in which they are expressed overshadow them.  This is a prime example of how actions speak louder than words. Can we allow our soft skills to show if we are unaware of how our body language and tone are speaking to others? They deserve their own table and belong in the middle, for this is how we can balance our hard and soft skills. Both are necessary in order to lead a classroom, a school, and a district.

Hard VS. Soft…Can One Survive Without the Other?

The obvious answer to this question is NO, yet we see people on a daily basis who tend to be one sided either way. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to hard and soft skills. For me, my Goldilocks leadership consists of a lean toward the right side. I have a strong emotional quotient. I am not completely balanced at all times, depending on the situation. There are moments when hard skills are the only option, as with soft skills. The key is to be more like Goldilocks…do what FEELS right. Learn to trust your own judgement. If you are wrong, learn from your choice and use the lesson to help you balance (or lean) better next time.

Be honest with yourself. Do you lean too much to one side? How can you learn to balance your IQ (intelligence quotient), with your EQ (emotional quotient)? Can you be more mindful of your tone and body language in order to find a happy medium? Maybe you need to select one trait from each side of the table and evaluate yourself. Take some time to reflect on your strengths, and to identify your weaknesses. In doing so, you will find your inner Goldilocks.

Bethany Hill is the Lead Learner at Central Elementary, Cabot Public School District. She shares her insights on her blog, Communicate, Coach, Care: The Central Purpose. Follow Bethany on Twitter at @bethhill2829