Eugene B. HabeckerDr. Eugene B. Habecker’s new book, The Softer Side of Leadership, doesn’t come out for two months, but leaders all over the world are already excited about it—and so are we. Dr. Habecker, president emeritus of Taylor University and current chair of the board at Christianity Today, learned many of the “hard” skills of leadership during his extensive education. But just as important were the “soft” skills he learned and refined during his 35 years of executive leadership experience—skills such as humility, integrity, and forgiveness. Now, he shares what he learned in a book that’s at least ten years in the making—The Softer Side of Leadership: Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead.

As we talked with Dr. Habecker about his upcoming book, one subject stood out: Scripture. God’s Word forms the natural basis of The Softer Side of Leadership, resulting in biblical and practical messages about the heart and forgiveness.

Scripture as the Source of All Wisdom

If you speak with Dr. Habecker, it quickly became clear that his passion for leadership is rooted in Scripture, not in worldly theories or influence for influence’s sake. And because his message is rooted in Scripture, it has benefits for all, not just for those who, like him, hold leadership positions in large corporations.

“I have always believed that faith and learning are connected,” Dr. Habecker says early in our conversation. “One of the things we talked about [while attending university] was the integration of faith and learning. … You begin to see that Scripture needs to be integrated in all of life.” Here he references 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Dr. Habecker has seen the Bible’s proven worth as a life guidebook through both his experience and the writings of other leadership experts. Secular works on business and leadership frequently include tips that are also in the Bible. He often comes across this in his reading and has thought, “Oh wait a minute, what I’m reading in the Harvard Business Review, [I read in] Proverbs.” And so he emphasizes, “The source of all true wisdom comes from Scripture.”

And that is the primary source for The Softer Side of Leadership.

Staying Connected to the Heart

One of the soft skills Dr. Habecker talks about is “staying connected to the heart.” This is essential in all relationships, whether with followers, with family members, or with God, and it’s emphasized throughout the Bible.

“The Scripture is filled with attention to the heart—‘Love God with all your mind, all your strength, all your heart,’” Dr. Habecker paraphrases from Deuteronomy and the Gospels. He mentions David’s words from Psalm 19 as well: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD…”

Dr. Habecker continues, “You have to stay connected to your heart in relationships. That applies both outside and inside the organization…. People need to know that you’re concerned for them; your concern for them is genuine, is authentic.”

He expands more on the topic in Section I, Chapter 4 of The Softer Side of Leadership, noting how your heart should influence not only relationships but company decisions. Of course, “having the right kind of heart” is an important part of it. He further writes, “Leaders need to be in touch with their hearts, to listen to their hearts, and to allow their hearts to both inform and protect.” This includes thinking about more than the bottom line.

This leads Dr. Habecker to mention a related soft skill, forgiveness—which is further covered in the second section of his book. “One of the things that I think should have attention in our culture is a culture of forgiveness,” he says, noting its importance in both family and the workplace. He points back to Scripture and adds, “Forgiven people need to be forgiving others. And that applies just as much in the home place as the work place.”

The Transformative Nature of Soft Skills

Staying connected to the heart, forgiveness, and similar soft skills transform people in places of authority into leaders that people want to follow. Dr. Habecker emphasizes the difference: “When you’re given positions of leadership, you have simply been given a position of authority, and the people you work with will not automatically follow; they are subordinates.” And subordinates aren’t necessarily followers. Thus, “Leadership can’t be defined by itself—it needs the others to define it.”

Dr. Habecker has found that people who cultivate soft skills become the type of leaders others want to follow. People start to say, “I want to follow the leader,” instead of “I have to.” They start looking forward to work, changing their perspectives from “Thank God it’s Friday” to “Thank God it’s Monday; I get to go to work, use my skills…”

“You can imagine the difference in productivity,” he says. “It’s a whole different leadership paradigm.” This paradigm is so different, and so needed, around the world, that forty-two leaders took the time to enthusiastically endorse it. Dr. Habecker mentions that one of them, who lives in South Africa, expressed his willingness to promote The Softer Side of Leadership throughout Africa because it’s so different and important.

Don’t misunderstand; soft skills aren’t the end-all-be-all. “You need to do strategic planning…. You need all these hard skills,” Dr. Habecker emphasizes. “What I’m saying is that isn’t enough. When you focus on the hard skills, you can get a lot done. [But when you add in soft skills] it dramatically changes everything.”

Cover of The Softer Side of Leadership by Eugene B. Habecker

The Softer Side of Leadership

Dr. Habecker has a passion to reach leaders and, by extension, those who follow them. His writing is clearly fueled by that passion, fused with the influence of God’s Word. 

The Softer Side of Leadership is still in the printing and shipping stage and won’t be released until May 17, 2018. However, it is available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you’d like to learn more about this book and about Dr. Habecker, be sure to stop by the book’s page.