According to the study cited in this Wall Street Journal article, hard skills have a larger impact on CEO success than soft skills. The study was done by University of Chicago Graduate School of Business professors using data from ghSmart, a management assessment consulting firm. The sample CEOs were from companies in buyout situations. The research doesn't appear to say if the data applies to CEOs at other companies.
These "hard" skills have the largest impact on success of the sampled CEOs:
- Attention to detail
- Analytical skills
- Setting high standards
These "soft" skills have less impact:
- Strong oral communication
- Listening skills
I wasn't able to find the primary research paper on-line. If anyone has a pointer, leave a comment so we can dig into the details.