Soft skills build better leaders: The power of critical thinking

In today’s fast-paced and highly-competitive business environment, even the smallest bad decision can have disastrous consequences. To be defined as truly great, leaders are expected to make sound decisions about anything from their organisation’s strategic direction and competitive positioning, right down to the efficient allocation of company resources. All things considered, the diverse world of management can at times be hard to navigate.

No longer can we rely on tried and tested methods of old. The challenges we face are new and ever-changing, calling for leaders equipped with the ability to adequately assess corporate avenues, potential consequences, and promptly adjust to new developments to ensure they are driving the right decision.

This ability to think clearly and rationally, while engaging in reflective and independent thinking is not a skill that is inherent in everyone. Understanding the logical connections between ideas, identifying the relevance and importance of arguments, and detecting inconsistencies or mistakes in reasoning can take a lot of time and training.

As it is such a valuable skill to have as one enters the job market, your university experience represents the prime time to hone these lifelong expertise, while the courses you undertake can determine how effectively you manage the complex circumstances every leader will likely face in their future profession.

The Social Sciences go hand-in-hand with the critical thinking concept, equipping students with a set of soft skills envied by many learn-by-number students. The practical, interactive and often community-based nature of many Social Science disciplines means that students are already out there experiencing the world – and the tricky decision-making process that comes with it – before they even leave the university setting.

Through a combination of data analysis and real-world conditions, Social Science graduates are pushed to come to their own conclusions via a myriad of sources.

There aren’t many jobs in the world today that do not require these skills. So, whether you hope to become a judge, teacher, anthropologist, marketing manager or even event planner, you’ll feel the benefits of this practice throughout your daily dealings.

Here are 5 Social Science departments that instil the power of critical thinking…


The School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at Leeds attracts an international community of passionate, ambitious individuals looking to become leaders in their field.

The MPA Public Administration is specially-designed to provide the professional and critical thinking skills required for influential and senior roles within public service. Combining the expertise of the Business School, the School of Politics and International Studies, and the School of Sociology and Social Policy, this professional qualification equips you with the perspectives and approaches needed to manage complex issues from ageing populations to migration. Not only will you gain an in-depth understanding of global public administration issues, but you will also be able to apply your knowledge to real life scenarios through practical experience working with a partner organisation.

For those hoping to make an impact in the world of development, MA Global Development will provide you with the professional skills needed for a successful career in organisations such as the UN, NGOs or the Civil Service. The programme will equip you with a highly sought-after skillset; allowing you to make decisions in complex and unpredictable situations, critically assess routes of action and construct clear arguments. Coupled with the specialist knowledge you’ll gain throughout the course, these skills will let you make an impact in the field.

No matter your career path, whether in public service, politics, or development, the skills you will gain from a Master’s degree at POLIS will allow you to develop as a person and as a leader.


Durham University’s School of Applied Social Sciences takes a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses five main themes: Communities and Social Justice; Higher Education and Social Equality; Violence and Abuse; Health; and Transgressive Leisure.

Through their top-notch research centres, students gain analytic skills while delving in to data looking at some of the tough issues in society. At the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, you can be a part of improving knowledge about interpersonal violence and abuse.

Or you can throw yourself in to the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action that places a strong emphasis on participatory action research. By working within the communities you are researching, you gain essential ‘people skills’ while also developing the ability to think in the moment with the information available to you.

As Professor Nicole Westmarland, Acting Head of School, says: “You will leave Durham University with the knowledge and critical thinking skills to make a real difference in the world.”


UCL prides itself on having one of the finest Social Science Departments in the world; one that consistently churns out pioneering research and teaching to inform policy that impacts people’s daily lives.

You can find UCL finger prints on national policy in areas such as on education, health, labour markets, human development, and child and adult wellbeing.

By applying quantitative methods to data to inform policy, both undergraduate and postgraduate students are pushed to hone their critical thinking skills and consider how the data reflects real-life impacts.

And the Department is making giant strides in research excellence, with 78 percent of research being ranked either ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the latest national research assessment exercise.

With a Faculty made up of psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and economists, students come out of UCL as all-rounders with an appreciation of not only data analysis but the skills needed to produce world-class research within a trailblazing team.


Students at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Bath are taken way out of their comfort zones and challenged to work on tangible solutions to pressing issues, not just in the UK but abroad.

Sociology and Social Policy student, Charlie Young, secured the position of Field Researcher at a small non-government organisation in Accra, Ghana while on her placement year.

The work involved data collection, data entry, report writing and fundraising for every project, pushing Claire’s soft skills to the absolute max.

Claire was also able to co-ordinate her own research project, exploring how culture influences sex education in Ghana. Carrying out interviews and leading focus groups, she collected comprehensive qualitative data that scored her a first in her final dissertation while also honing her critical thinking skills.

This is just one example of the Faculty’s many great opportunities.


The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Warwick appreciates that the outcomes of research can change government policies, enhance the economy and improve the lives of people all over the world.

In an effort to push the boundaries, the Faculty’s departments and research centres continually challenge perceptions and encourage individuals and organisations to ask questions about the world in which we live.

This ‘thinking outside the box’ mentality is what drives Warwick students to become valued members of the workforce, regardless of which industry they choose to go into.

The Faculty covers a whole range of subject areas, including Sociology, Economics, Philosophy and Politics.

As the fourth-largest Social Sciences faculty in the UK, 72 projects are currently underway, funded by the Faculty Impact Acceleration Account specifically-designed to support social sciences research.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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