People skills will be the key to success in an automated age, global study among future leaders finds

The leaders of tomorrow believe that exceptional people skills will be the key to business success in a technological age, new research from CEMS – the Global Alliance in Management Education – has found.



The study examined the views of hundreds of recent graduates from the CEMS Master in International Management programme, many of whom are likely to be business leaders of the future. The majority of respondents were aged between 24-27 years of age, from 54 countries, with 75% now employed by multinational companies.




Over half (56%) consider either social skills (33%) or the ability to manage people (23%) as the most important skills to develop as technology increases in the corporate workplace. They rated these soft skills more highly than teachable hard skills (7%), technical job-specific content skills (7%) or process skills such as critical thinking (12%).



In contrast to the dystopian vision often depicted, 97% of respondents also believe that technological advancement (including automation/AI) will have a positive or very positive impact on the future of business.



The research suggests that future leaders are keen to seize opportunities presented by technological disruption, but that this will require a skills revolution. Rather than relying on high levels of technical proficiency, exceptional people skills will help them navigate this uncharted territory.



Roland Siegers, Executive Director of CEMS said:



“Technological disruption is clearly at the forefront of the minds of high calibre young leaders – our graduates – just entering a volatile and uncertain workplace. However rather than having a bleak vision, they see this as a fresh opportunity to get ahead if they can develop the right approach and skills.


“Technology will certainly mean that the human touch will be more important than ever in the workplace over the next few years. In terms of leadership, traditional ways of thinking about management – where technically qualified people are eventually promoted to management – are likely to become be a thing of the past.


“Instead, future leaders will need to develop a new set of people-centric skills. The most successful managers will be those who can invest in their community, skilfully develop employees to get the best out of them and cultivate highly effective teams with the ability to work seamlessly across borders. Promoting the values of openness, sustainability and inclusiveness will be extremely important as the foundation of these people skills.

“This new generation of leaders will display high cultural intelligence as they operate globally, able to move through the initial stages of small talk and fast forward to connecting at a deeper level. These skills will mean they will have high potential to successfully lead international teams and thrive in a technological age.


Sarah Ballard, Campus Recruiter at global research and advisory company Gartner, a CEMS corporate partner, said:


“I completely agree that soft skills are now a key differentiator in getting ahead in your career. We are looking for ambitious individuals, with strong executive presence, that are able to engage C–level Executives straight after completing their studies. Communication skills, personal brand and an ability to adapt are essential for the next generation of leaders.”



The CEMS programme unites international-calibre professors from leading universities and business schools, multinational companies and non-profit organisations, jointly designing and delivering both theoretical knowledge and practical know-how through the CEMS Master’s in International Management.


CEMS was founded in 1988 and the network includes 30 schools across 5 continents, 74 Corporate Partners (multinational companies) and 7 Social Partners (NGOs).



Upon graduation, students’ careers take a truly international path in a great variety of sectors and in many cases within multinational companies:


• 97% employed or continuing their studies
• 49% are living outside of their home country
• 75% work for multinational companies




For more information or interviews, please contact Rebecca Griffiths at Communications Management on 01727733885 or 07792568421, email

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