This article examines the importance of soft skills for leaders. And it highlights the key soft skills that a business leader should possess to build good working relationships, handle complaints with tact and fairness, and successfully address the biggest threats to a team’s productivity, such as low morale, friction between team members, communication issues, and so on.
According to experts, your soft skills exert influence on:
- Whether people respect you, and like working with you,
- Your approach to handling workplace conflicts or politics,
- Team motivation and productivity,
- Employee engagement and retention,
- Workplace culture,
- And much more.
Successful leaders make effective use of their interpersonal skills to enhance employee motivation, maintain relationships, and manage their reputation.
So, feel free to connect with me and join my flagship Leadership Workshops to develop and improve the people skills that are crucial to successful leadership.
Leadership as a Soft Skill
Leadership experts assert that there are two sides to leading. First, the hard side of analysing, planning, making decisions and strategising. And secondly, the soft side of inspiring, motivating, and persuading team members, building good working relationships, networking, and influencing.
An appropriate balance between hard and soft skills is essential for any business leader. It enables the leader to thrive as well as to create the desired results and wellbeing at the workplace.
And so almost every organisation wants its executives and managers to be adept at leadership soft skills.
Often people lack clarity on what are soft skills for leaders. So, the following section will highlight the soft skills for leadership development.
5 Top Soft Skills for Leaders
Here are the 5 best soft skills for leaders that will help you to step up your leadership potential:
- Communication Skills
- People Handling skills
- Networking Skills
- Strategic Thinking and Decision Making Skills
- Self Management Skills
1. COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Leaders need to explain clearly and succinctly everything from specific tasks to organizational goals, in-person as well as via the phone, email, and social media. They are required to communicate, both within the team and throughout the company, with a directness and influence that leaves no room for doubt or second thoughts. Effective communication skills, thus, are the most important soft skills for business leaders.
The following 5 leadership communication competencies are crucial for every departmental or organisational leader:
(i) Verbal Communication
Clear, assertive, and timely communication is the key to inspire a team to take action and achieve better business results. And so, effective verbal communication skills are vital. They enable leaders to articulate their point of view, opinion, insight, recommendation, and feedback such that the message is unambiguous, direct and constructive rather than destructive, hurtful or aggressive.
(ii) Non-verbal communication
Consciously or unconsciously, people check for the congruence between what your words are saying vis-a-vis what your body is saying. And when senior managers or leaders know how to say things convincingly with their body language, they can facilitate quick problem solving and smooth work-flow.
(iii) Written Communication
Whether you’re writing emails, performance reviews, disciplinary notices, hand-over notes, project status updates or reviewing reports, writing is a core part of everyday leadership life. Every phrase or sentence carries significant weight. And by organizing points logically, you can send engaging, comprehensive and accurate messages to the team. Consequently, your days will be more streamlined and productivity will be higher.
Of course, written communication skill is one of the key soft skills for executive leaders.
(iv) Active listening
Successful and charismatic leaders tend to be extremely good listeners. They have the ability to listen actively to the thoughts and ideas of different people from different backgrounds, ages, cultures and social strata without feeling bored, tired, or frustrated.
Active listening helps in fully understanding the message, including any feelings beyond the spoken word that may be conveyed nonverbally. And so, it is one of the essential soft skills needed for leaders.
If you are someone who finds it difficult to give the speaker your undivided attention or you are usually not open to opinions and you would like to listen to your people a little bit better, here are some useful tips to help you become a good listener.
(v) Powerful Questioning
Asking powerful questions presents you an opportunity to understand, connect, clarify and more importantly get to the heart of any matter. It helps you to solve issues and achieve a better outcome quickly. And thus, the ability to use questioning in different situations is an important soft skill for executives, managers, and business leaders.
2. PEOPLE HANDLING SKILLS
Executives and managers at all levels need people skills to do their jobs effectively because business teams are made up of people of different ages, from various backgrounds, and with different ideas of how to work.
The following people handling skills are crucial for successful leadership at the workplace:
The leader’s ability to inspire and motivate others enables people in the team to work to the very best of their abilities.
Motivating skills, therefore, is an important soft skill needed for the aspiring as well as experienced executives and leaders.
(ii) Establishing Trust
When there is trust between employees and the leader, the employees take ownership of their own work and they feel free to approach the leader for advice as and when needed.
On the other hand, lack of trust results in a toxic working environment.
Therefore, trust-building is one of the crucial skills needed for leadership success.
The time you empower your people, you give them the power to take some basic decisions on their own.
After outlining the goal and deliverable product, when leaders give freedom to their employees to execute work with their own approach, the employees tend to work diligently along with a sense of ownership within the company.
Empowering brings out the best and most productive work of people. Hence, it is important for leaders to exhibit empowering skills and induce initiative, confidence and responsibility in their people.
Empathy is one of the key soft skills of successful leaders. It enables the leaders to know when they should put the mask of professionalism aside, and engage with the team members to offer emotional support, indulge in humour, demonstrate camaraderie, etc
(v) Conflict Resolution and Negotiation
Leaders who possess the ability to resolve workplace issues and conflicts often find it easy to maintain a healthy, collaborative and productive working environment in the workplace.
Most leaders are resolving conflicts and negotiating throughout the day — with clients, with employees, and with friends and family.
Successful Leaders know how to find solutions that work for everyone. Conflict resolution and negotiation skills, therefore, are essential soft skills for aspiring, new as well as senior leaders.
(vi) Facilitating Collaboration
Workspaces comprise of people from different backgrounds and cultures.
It is often observed that people who do not think, feel, and behave like each other do not work better together.
Consequently, project work and operations suffer.
Breaking the barriers down and establishing collaboration among team members is the foremost responsibility of a leader.
And so, executives and managers should have the much needed soft skills to bring about collaboration, solve grievances and inspire the team to deliver projects of a high standard in the nick of time.
(vii) Emotional Control
Oftentimes, people lash out because of unmet emotional needs during times of turmoil and change. But those who can regulate and control their nonverbal and emotional displays appear clear-headed, calm and strong.
Leaders need to present a calm and rational front at all times.
So, they should possess emotional control and prepare to present better emotional displays under stressful or even hostile conditions.
3. NETWORKING SKILLS
Leaders are frequently required to establish cordial relationships and interact successfully on a one-to-one basis, in small groups, to a whole room full of people, and to even larger gatherings in the wider world. They can not afford to be filled with dread at the thought of walking into a place full of strangers.
And therefore, networking skills is a key soft skill needed by business leaders and managers.
Networking skills enable you to make people feel relaxed and comfortable around you so you can build connections easily.
There is a vast range of competencies that comprise networking skills. They are highlighted underneath:
(i) Influence and Persuasion
Exceptional managers and leaders know how to influence and persuade other people. They are able to not only grab people’s attention but also convince them to support their viewpoint, cause, or appeal.
Influencing and persuading are thus crucial soft skills for leadership and managerial excellence.
(ii) Rapport Building
Rapport is the sense of connection that you get, within minutes, when you meet someone you like, trust, and understand.
Leaders who have a knack for connecting with others quickly, no matter who they meet, find it easy to build effective and harmonious relationships. Undoubtedly, rapport building skills are imperative soft skills leaders need to succeed.
Leadership and business etiquettes go hand-in-hand.
This makes sense because business etiquettes involve a sophisticated understanding of social norms, roles, and scripts, and leadership itself is a complex social role.
Of course, leaders who are well-behaved standout and they are respected by the team.
(iv) Leadership Presence
Presence communicates your self-worth and confidence. It encompasses the totality of your presentation, from your hair to your voice, your movements, and the subtle ways in which you access your intuition and respond.
Furthermore, it enables you to take command of various audiences in varied situations.
4. STRATEGIC THINKING & DECISION MAKING
5. SELF MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Successful leaders juggle a lot of things. They have to keep their tasks, their projects, their teams, and their emotions organized to continue moving in the right direction as well as to be able to provide reassurance, guidance, and a sense of stability during times of change.
As organizations have become less hierarchical and more agile over the last decade, it is important for leaders to be resilient and manage themselves better.
Why Soft Skills are Important for Leaders?
Leadership is more than just knowing an organization’s business, thinking strategically, and understanding the business world.
Leaders need to address needs, provide support, attain mutual trust, and promote ownership and accountability to achieve business goals quickly.
Businesses rarely fail because their leaders lacked hard skills. As a matter of fact, it is more common for businesses to fail because their leaders lacked soft skills of great leaders. That’s why the soft skills for successful leaders cannot be stressed enough.
While leadership soft skills might begin to seem irrelevant in the face of technological advancement and remote working, their utility remains as prevalent as they have ever been. Soft skills are essential for leading people, solving problems, earning customer trust, and closing deals—all key factors to business success.
According to a recent study, 91% of companies cited that in today’s world of ever-more technology, it is soft skills that matter the most. There is a noteworthy role of soft skills for future leaders. In reality, technology and social media have not erased human interaction. They have only ported human interaction over to a digital medium. Therefore, it is safe to say that these are important soft skills for future leaders.
Understanding people and responding to them in an appropriate and effective way is absolutely crucial.
People like to follow leaders who can project positive feelings like calmness, motivation or excitement, instead of employing the logic of command and control. And there’s no doubt that Leadership Training Programs focused on enhancing inter-personal skills to address leadership needs and challenges can help executives and managers at all levels to lead more efficiently, effortlessly.
Concluding Thoughts on Soft Skills for Leaders
Soft skills are paramount to effective leadership in the workplace.
The top 5 soft skills that all successful leaders need include communication skills, people handling skills, social networking skills, strategic thinking and decision making skills, and finally, self-management skills.
These soft skills enable leaders to handle complaints with tact and fairness, build good working relationships, create the desired results and wellbeing at the workplace, as well as inspire, motivate, and persuade team members to perform at the optimum level and produce work that meets high organisational standards.
Interpersonal Soft Skills Training
If you think your leadership soft skills need some polishing, here is a training program designed to help you enhance the interpersonal skills essential for successful leadership.
This course will help you to present yourself with confidence and emerge as a more credible, and influential leader.