Over the last few years, layoffs and cost-cutting measures have led to a shortage of talent in the oil and gas industry, which only adds to the importance of leadership development. Industry training programs tend to yield candidates equipped with technical, teachable skills, also known as hard skills, including budgeting and project management, but there needs to be equal emphasis on soft skills. Soft skills are personal habits and traits that help to create a positive, effective work environment and tend to include interpersonal skills like active listening and communication.  While soft skills may be a little more difficult to develop, they are equally, if not more, important especially when the recruitment process grows to be more competitive.

Both management and leadership are necessary in creating a functional work environment, however it is worth noting the key differences between the two.  Management serves to meet objectives and tends to be structured in a hierarchical fashion. According to Henri Fayol, a mining engineer and early business theorist, management includes elements such as commanding instructions to workers and coordinating activities into a common approach. At the end of the day, management is about getting things done and adjusting people and things so that goals can be met. Leadership is about inspiring others to achieve goals. To lead is to invest in employee development and influence positive change. Whereas management is often organized by seniority, leadership can and is encouraged to be exhibited at any and every level.

So what makes a leader in the oil and gas industry? Critical thinking and problem solving are among the top of the list of desirable leadership skills. Leaders need not only to identify problems but should be able to creatively pair them with solutions. Being able to think critically helps individuals to arrive at solutions when real-world problems prove to be nonlinear.

Teamwork is another highly rated skill in the industry. During the downturn, many companies have encouraged collaboration to create an inclusive culture. In doing so, new members who can help the team to move forward and find a better way of doing something can feel welcome become an important asset.

Oil and gas professionals need to grow with the industry as it becomes more and more diverse. It is important to keep an open mind and be adaptive; that means being able to sense change and adjust accordingly.

Fortunately for the industry, millennials are known to embrace diversity and work collaboratively, and it is millennials that are entering and taking over the workforce. These top leadership traits take root as soft skills in many technically qualified candidates. Leadership skills are necessary to help with the retention of talent in the oil and gas industry amidst the downturn of recent years and propel it forward with growth for the years to come.