Compelling new research on effective leadership delivering hard results points to the importance of some very soft skills. Fred Kiel, in his most recent book, “Return on Character,” reports that “virtuoso” CEOs and their executive teams who modeled character traits such as integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion not only delivered five times the return on assets, but also five times the employee engagement ratings.

Taking responsibility, allowing for mistakes and having empathy for the needs of others may seem pretty soft to hard driven entrepreneurs, but the bottom line is that effective leaders who practice these competencies delivered the hard results.

The top three character habits of top performing CEOS include saying things like “I screwed up,” “I forgive you,” and “I put your needs first.” Think about it. What environment is created when someone takes responsibility for a mistake? People become inspired to take ownership of their own challenges and act in a manner that shows integrity. How about when someone shows forgiveness? That sentiment most certainly breeds an environment of risk taking, which in turn leads to innovation. And when a leader addresses the needs of other employees, those employees want to stay longer and go further than expected, ultimately increasing engagement.

Recently I made my case for Leadership That Gets Results to a packed room of legal administrators in New York City. And while the growing body of research shows that soft skills delivers hard results, equally important is the case that leadership skills can actually be developed. Our foundational beliefs and habits can evolve when we choose a path of self-reflection and determined focus on the human side of business.

The resources for leadership development are vast. Books, videos, seminars, retreats and other people can be great assets if we so choose. In fact, the number factor that the top performing CEOs pointed to for their success was having a mentor to guide them along their journey.

We all have an opportunity to lead, and be led; to tap into the emotional spirit of ourselves, and others; and to practice translating those soft skills on a daily basis in a way that makes a big impact. And that is what leadership is all about.

 This article, written by GDI President Tim Walther, was originally published in Teton Spirit Connection Magazine November 3, 2015.   You Can find out more about Tim Walther’s Speaking Engagements Here:

Tim Walther, Grand Dynamics. CREDIT: David J Swift


Tim is the president of Grand Dynamics International, facilitating individual, team and organizational development through value- added, customer-centered, cutting-edge experiential training design and delivery. Email him at