The evidence keeps coming in that broadly educated people are more likely to rise to leadership positions in all kinds of organizations. The American Management Association’s AMA Critical Skills Survey reports on interviews with business executives about what they are looking for in employees.

Because more and more routine jobs are seen as ripe for outsourcing and exporting, employment opportunities now focus on knowledge-based personal skills. Employers recognize more and more that change is coming everywhere and that their organizations must be nimble and able to move quickly to adapt to and even lead change. Adaptable skills will become even more important to organizations in the future.

The AMA Critical Skills Survey defined the skills as follows:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving—including the ability to make decisions, solve problems, and take action as appropriate;
  • Effective communication—the ability to synthesize and transmit your ideas both in written and oral formats;
  • Collaboration and team building—the ability to work effectively with others, including those from diverse groups and with opposing points of view;
  • Creativity and innovation—the ability to see what’s NOT there and make something happen.

About two-thirds of respondents said they look for and assess those qualities in new hires and in employees when they are considering promotions.

It doesn’t take any expert in educational matters to see that these skills are not confined to any particular major or area of study; and they are certainly not more likely to be developed in a business or management curriculum than in the arts or humanities. They are the skills inherent in a good liberal arts education.

The next time you hear people joke about liberal arts majors being likely to end up working at a fast food restaurant, tell them about the AMA study!