Seven Leadership Soft Skills Every Leader Needs To Be Successful
What are the top soft skills for future leaders if you want to be successful in your career? What leadership soft skills are necessary to make your business thrive? How to improve your soft skills in such a way you will empower people and teams toward their highest potential? What are these soft skills every leader needs to be successful?
While hard skills are an easy sell, the oft-neglected soft skills are essential for leading people, solving problems, and earning customer trust — all key factors to business success.
WarningMost of us have a good idea of our capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses — or think we do. But when it comes to soft skills, do you know what yours are? And are you using them effectively?
The most successful leaders have not only mastered technical skills, they’ve also mastered soft skills.
Commonly known as people or interpersonal skills, soft skills like negotiating, building morale, and maintaining relationships are key to a leader’s success.
People with good soft skills tend to have strong situational awareness and emotional intelligence to navigate difficult working environments while still producing positive results.
This is especially important for leadership positions because good leadership is more about managing people and directing their efforts toward the desired outcome rather than bringing any specific technical skills to bear.
LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner said soft skills are more important than knowing how to code in today’s job environment.
A recent study even found that when managers can’t effectively communicate with their employees or help them accomplish their career goals, workers jump ship.
By investing in soft skills, you can skoot ahead of the robotic, monochromatic managers, winning the trust of your peers and taking your organization to new heights.
Developing your soft skills can establish the foundation to develop a learning organization with solid leadership skills and engaged employees. Here are seven ways to improve your soft skills and become more successful as a leader.
American icon Oprah Winfrey says that “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives”.
Like good communication, good listening is a big part of empathy. If your team knows you put them first, you’ll reap the rewards.
We know it’s not always easy to find time to listen well if it’s a busy day, but it’s vital in order to build trust. No-one feels loyalty towards a boss who doesn’t seem to care.
Empathy means to understand and relate with the feelings of others. While this sounds a lot like sympathy, it isn’t.
WarningTo be empathetic, you need to be able to discern a person’s needs and how their feelings are shaping their perceptions. You don’t just have to go on agreeing with them all the time as you would when you’re being sympathetic.
Empathy is the compass that should guide the way we conduct business. Politeness is good practice, but your organization’s goal should be to positively impact the people you work with.
The only way to do this is to empathize. Share, listen, find common ground and connect. Put yourself on their screen and try to understand where they’re coming from and how they feel.
At the core of empathy lies the quality to understand that the people around you are facing challenges, too. They won’t just magically pluck the results their leader wants out of the blue, but will experience hardships for which they might need a helping hand.
Give any speaker your undivided attention, take notes, reserve judgment, and be open to opinions.
WarningWe tend to associate being the loudest voice in the room with power and control, but successful leaders understand the importance of listening to others’ thoughts and ideas.
Empathy is arguably the most important soft skill anyone needs, in the workforce and in life.
If you’re in leadership, empathy — the simple act of paying attention to another human being and working to understanding their situation — helps you work with everyone from team members to clients to senior leadership.
As a leader, you’ll undoubtedly be very familiar with encountering problems and figuring out the best way to solve them. Good leaders use their analytical and creative skills to find solutions, but having a methodical approach and a level head helps too.
A successful leader is, first and foremost, a problem solver. They are the one others will call on when they can’t find a solution to a business issue by themselves.
Problem-solving, along with decision-making, is one of the most important leadership soft skills. While newly encountered business problems might seem unique, the truth is that few things are really new under the sun.
Many leaders try to minimize problems because they don’t understand that companies hire employees to solve problems. Glitches, bumps in the road, and stumbling blocks are all part of the job and represent learning opportunities.
The ability to use your knowledge to find answers to pressing problems and formulate workable solutions will demonstrate that you can handle — and excel in — your job. Discussing mistakes and what you learned from them is an important part of building a soft skills resume.
The truth is, leaders who are closed-minded and don’t see any room for improvement in their leadership ability will not succeed. Being promoted does not automatically make you a leader. You must grow, learn and develop into a leader. This can only be done through openness to learn and improve. If you have this mindset as a new leader, you’re unstoppable.
In addition, great leaders have good negotiation skills, and know how to find solutions that work for everyone.
Most leaders are negotiating throughout the day — with clients, with employees, and with friends. The most successful negotiators remain fair and considerate of others’ desires while pushing for what they want.
Problem solving is the essence of what leaders exist to do.
WarningAs leaders, the goal is to minimize the occurrence of problems — which means we must be courageous enough to tackle them head-on before circumstances force our hand. We must be resilient in our quest to create and sustain momentum for the organization and people we serve.
Teamwork is the main feature of soft skills which primarily focus on collective effort while performing a task. It demands in a person the tendency to get along with others, helpfulness, supportiveness, collaborative attitude and agreeability from the people he deals with.
The most effective leaders work to maximize their team by complementing the strengths of its members. Spend time on the basics.
Consider using your leadership strengths to improve the productivity of your work team. Do you consistently engage your team in open and honest discussion about the work that you do? Are you considered approachable by most people in your team?
A big part of your impact as a leader comes from the inspiration and motivation you impart. That’s why it’s imperative to connect with others to build trust and unity.
WarningMotivating is a tall order! Especially since each person is likely motivated by something different. But it isn’t necessarily about getting people psyched up to come to work each day.
You may prefer to work alone, but it’s important to demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the value of joining forces and working in partnership with others to accomplish the company’s goals. This shows that you possess the soft skills necessary to engage in productive collaboration.
Merely getting a bunch of employees to work in the same office is not enough to qualify them as one.
The key ingredient to building a real team is teamwork (as the word itself hints). It’s all about knowing how to properly split the work that needs to be done, and how to combine individual strengths and skills towards a common goal.
You’ll know that teamwork involves a range of soft skills. Working towards a common goal means being able to co-operate and reach consensus with others.
WarningYou’ll need to ensure your team knows how to negotiate with one another and appreciate different points of view. They also need to accept and give feedback, just as you do.
Businesses rarely fail because their employees lacked hard skills. It’s more common for businesses to fail because their leadership lacked soft skills. That’s why the importance of leadership development in the workplace cannot be stressed enough.
A leader must be inspiring, caring, and rigorous. Having a strong understanding of what motivates your team members is essential.
When you invest in others through coaching, you express caring leadership. It’s an area where a leader’s actions are far more important than their words.
Coaching is working alongside someone to help them improve, and it’s a major task for every leader. Unfortunately, it’s often replaced with either neglect or micromanaging.
Good coaches do what it takes to build better people, and good coaching involves regular feedback and education. As you watch employees work, or see what they produce, ask them how things are going.
The effort put into coaching smooths the path to achieving goals. Feedback is also necessary for constant development. So a leader should focus on feedback on a regular basis. Such feedback both for and from the team should be able to comprise of both the positive and negative.
The idea of servant leadership essentially revolves around putting those who look up to you before you. These can include your team members, your customers and other stakeholders.
WarningThe difference between a servant-first and leader-first is that the former is primarily interested in helping those he/she cares about to grow. In contrast, leader-first will exercise their power to achieve their own ends.
By serving your own team, you can set a better example.
Ego-driven decision making is replaced by a feeling of trust and gratitude. When your team members see you as someone trying to help them, the odds are that they will reciprocate by helping you as well.
LinkedIn has named creativity as the number one soft skill to learn for 2020. In a rapidly changing business environment, companies need to tap into fresh ideas and innovative approaches to solve problems quickly.
Creativity is one of the most important qualities of a modern business leader. Creative leadership drives productivity and fosters success in a company.
If you’re a new leader, and you have the ability to think outside of the box to bring in new ideas, you’ll be a valuable addition to any leadership team. As Steve Jobs counseled students in a 2005 Stanford commencement address, “Stay Hungry, Stay Young, Stay Foolish”.
Creativity itself is the abandonment of rigid structures, a very desirable trait for individuals in leadership positions to have in a corporate setting.
Creative leaders have the ability to look at things in new ways and solve problems by seeing things others don’t. New perspectives on problems from a creative approach can lead to new and perhaps previously unheard-of solutions.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has stated that people who are willing to innovate cannot do so without the risk of being misunderstood.
WarningLeaders will find themselves being looked upon for solutions, and simply reading out the rule book or giving cliched advice may not always work. Creativity is often a product of trial and error.
In 2010, IBM surveyed 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world. They found that creativity was ranked the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing integrity and global thinking.
Going hand in hand with creativity, leaders need to be curious. They need to be open-minded and curious about new ways of doing things.
We’ve all heard of the boss who never wants to change because “we’ve always done it this way”. Well, this mindset won’t lead an organisation into the future. It will keep it stagnant in the past.
With industries changing rapidly, new strategies need to be implemented quickly. So companies look for leaders who can adapt to those changes and use their critical thinking ability to solve problems.
If new leaders can demonstrate critical thinking ability, they’re ahead of the competition. This is why critical thinking is one of the top soft skills for future leaders.
To excel, you should set the bar high. Setting low targets may help you to achieve it quicker and easier, but ultimately it’s all about achieving maximum targets.
A leader must always keep their expectations high because of all the willpower of leader that thrives team to achieve it.
WarningSetting low targets might help you exceed expectations, but successful leaders set high expectations, and then lead themselves and their teams to hitting those goals.
In addition, while you may have a manager, companies don’t like to spend time micromanaging employees.
They expect you to be responsible and do the job you’re getting paid to do, which includes being punctual when you arrive at work, meeting deadlines, and making sure that your work is error-free. And going the extra mile shows that you’re committed to performing your work with excellence.
Leadership presence is that illusive quality all great leaders have that commands the attention of the room as soon as they enter. Some call it the “IT factor”. Despite what many say, it’s not a quality people are born with; it’s learned. There are many aspects to developing strong leadership presence so new leaders should start as soon as they can.
While your values don’t need to be identical to those of your workers, you should be able to establish common ground with them. This often starts with the hiring process.
The stronger the team, the better the quality of work, and the more you excel. Leaders need only focus on compiling a strong team, and have faith and confidence in themselves.
Leading by example is the best way to ensure an ethical business. It instills respect and lets your employees see that you truly believe in them and trust them to work.
WarningTo build an ethical company, you must start from the top down. Your employees will see your behavior, choices, and values and will adopt them in their own practices.
Arguably the number one soft skill that you look for in your staff — and that they in turn look for in you as a strong leader. If you want a motivated, productive, successful workforce, good communication tops the soft skills list.
Strong communication abilities are an absolute must for any leader. Communication is the key to inspiring and motivating your people, and — ultimately — to the overall success of your business.
Successful leaders know how to facilitate open and effective communication, both within their team and throughout the company. To achieve this they first need to master the art of effective communication themselves.
Leaders must be efficient in every aspect of communication, which may be either formal or interpersonal.
Communication is paramount to leadership positions. Knowing how to speak thoughtfully and intelligently and how to listen intently and actively, keeping both in balance, will take you far.
In the situation of globalization, we come across various scenarios where managers are leading virtual teams that don’t or rarely meet to face to face. To cater to the complexities of the situation, one needs to have strong, consistent communication skills.
Active listening should also be considered a key communication soft skill because it helps you listen to and actually hear what others say.
WarningYou need to be able to listen to understand how to best communicate with someone. Without strong listening skills, any communication efforts will be one-way and probably ineffective.
Communication is incredibly important in leadership. It’s definitely one skill new leaders must to master.
You need to communicate with others to share your ideas, get buy-in, get feedback, give feedback, delegate, speak spontaneously in meetings, have difficult conversations and in many more situations. It’s so prevalent in leadership, without it, you won’t survive.
The days of command-and-control leadership don’t work anymore. What works presently is trust-and-track leadership. As the world is changing rapidly, the knowledge, skills and abilities essential for employees are changing rapidly.
Exploring soft leadership helps greatly for the leaders to satisfy all stakeholders to achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness.
WarningWhatever your management style, it’s important to understand, develop and use your set of soft skills to build a strong organisational culture and team. That way you’ll not only get the best from your staff — you’ll also drive your business forward.
The essential soft skills listed in this article represent most of what it takes to become a successful leader. The only caveat is time.
It takes time to develop any skill, and you often have to work through a tough learning curve. By following the advice in this article over months and years, you’ll develop all the skills necessary to lead an amazing company that’s built to last.
People often focus specifically on technical skills, but neglecting soft skills can make it difficult to succeed in future positions that require a high degree of emotional intelligence and social interaction.
We all can continually practice these soft skills to ensure we’re inspiring those around us to do their best work. As leaders, we need to take the time to learn about our talent as much as they are willing to open up and share. If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!