10 Soft Skills that are Crucial for Leadership

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September 2, 2022

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Milan Kordestani

Entrepreneur, writer, and founder of 3 purpose-driven companies oriented toward giving individuals control over their own discourse and creation. Milan works to produce socially positive externalities through a mindset of social architecture.

Hi! I'm Milan, an LA based founder and writer, architecting impact-first businesses.

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The best leaders not only know how to work with numbers, they know how to work with people. Skills like empathic communication, active listening, and body language are “soft skills” and are essential to productive leadership.

As we embrace an automated future, people are investing more in learning technical skills. However, I’d argue that soft skills will become more critical as we settle into the age of automation.

 Being an entrepreneur, I’ve met several successful leaders. One of the biggest things I found common in them was - a good grasp of soft skills. This allows them to effectively collaborate with remote teams and guides them to new heights. 

Soft Skills that a Strong Leader Needs in 2022

Leading people is a function of an intangible connection that is difficult to put into words. Good leaders instill purpose in their teams and make them feel fulfilled with their work. Whether your teams work from the office or home, if you want to deliver your best, become a leader by heart and mind.

 This is where developing soft skills enters the picture. The strength of your soft skills will determine how well you can lead your teams. As a leader, your success is defined by the success of your people. Here are ten soft skills that you should work on developing if you want to be a better leader: 

  • Communication skills 

The ability to effectively communicate tops the list of soft leadership skills. Disagreements are natural when you manage a team of people with varied opinions.

 In such situations, practice civil discourse with your team. It’s a great tool that allows everyone to present their honest opinions and find common ground.

 Here are a few tips for facilitating civil communication: 

  1. Be open-minded to understand other people’s viewpoints.
  1. Ask for feedback and openly discuss them.
  1. Be confident while presenting yourself, and back your words with credible facts.
  1. Seek common ground to find solutions rather than focusing on points of conflict.

  • Empathic approach 

Leaders are primarily responsible for inspiring others. If you want people to follow your lead and take action, you need to know what they care about, which takes empathy. To lead them well, you have to understand their situation and feelings.

 Empathy as a soft skill fosters a work culture where everyone feels heard and understood. This instills in them a sense of responsibility to resolve conflicts. Compassion is a foundation of solid leadership. Here’s my personalized formula to enhance empathy for leadership: 

  1. Take others’ opinions into account before concluding.
  1. Engage in personalized communication by paying attention while listening and responding positively.
  1. Show support towards your employees and express willingness to solve their problems.
  1. Take feedback from the team to foster better understanding.
  1. Be genuine, kind, unbiased, and non-judgmental toward others. 
  1. Focus on growing as a team without leaving anyone behind.

  • Mindful actions that Win Over Trust

Trust is essential for the success of your team. Creating a trustworthy environment is only possible when your actions match your words. Employees begin to trust you when they realize you care about their well-being and take measures to help the company grow.

However, remember that your behavior needs to come from an authentic place. You can’t fake genuine trust. 

  1. Practice transparency in your work principles.
  1. Acknowledge others’ talents and value their strengths.
  1. Establish civil discourse with your team to allow the free flow of ideas.
  1. Don’t shy away from accepting your mistakes. 
  1. Be open and embrace other people’s perspectives or constructive criticism. 

  • Delegation Skills that Empower Others

The art of delegation is a must-have soft skill for leadership. As a leader, your goal is to empower every individual by recognizing their true potential.

Trusting employees with their assigned tasks without micro-managing creates a positive work environment. It also prevents you from overworking while boosting your team’s confidence.

Delegating responsibilities to capable individuals also allows you to hone your leadership skills.

Below are a few tips to help you effectively delegate tasks: 

  1. Conduct 1-on-1 sessions and group discussions to evaluate every individual’s standpoint.
  1. Offer challenging but achievable goals to your employees to help them grow.
  1. Give them space and trust in their process.
  1. Don’t micromanage at every step while the work is in progress.

  • Flexible mindset

Leadership is an ever-changing sphere. Leaders must be able to adapt to the constantly evolving industry standards.

Being open-minded with varied opinions elevates your strengths as a leader. If your employees view you as an approachable leader, they’d feel connected and dedicated to you. This leads to a productive workspace and promotes personal growth.

I’ve learned a few ways to adjust to different situations: 

  1. View changes as positive opportunities for growth.
  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment or push your limitations.
  1. Remain approachable.
  1. Adjust your conflict management tactics to effectively resolve stressful situations.

  • Collaborative Attitude

Bringing a team together is one of the most potent traits of an influential leader. It’s more about being a part of the team and not just allocating tasks to the employees. Inculcating a spirit of teamwork enhances cooperation, collaboration, and synchronization among the members. It helps you identify the team’s challenges while working towards a common goal.

A leader is nothing without a team. Guide them, split the responsibilities, and maintain clear communication with them. Polishing teamwork skills is imperative to becoming a strong leader. Here are some steps I follow and recommend: 

  1. Set hyper-defined goals.
  1. Develop a flow of communication among teammates.
  1. Provide updated tools and resources your team needs to seamlessly function.
  1. Conduct frequent review sessions.
  1. Clarify every member’s roles and responsibilities within the team.
  1. Praise the accomplishments and constructively address the poor performances.

  • Problem-solving skills

Problems are inevitable. A leader’s ability to deal with them separates a good leader from the average. A solution-oriented mindset becomes your strength to overcome roadblocks.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll encounter unique challenges. Your project might not shape up as expected, or your team might not be working up to the mark. You must objectively look at things in such situations to find the best solution.

My default mode of problem-solving involves the following steps: 

  1. Address the problem before assuming the pain points.
  1. Brainstorm possible solutions and analyze if their execution has some limitations.
  1. Involve your team in the creative problem-solving procedure. 
  1. Break down the challenge into a series of steps and individually tackle them.

  • Self-Awareness to Manage your emotional intelligence

Pay attention to your emotions, inner conflicts, and mindfulness to foster leadership skills. Your emotional triggers influence your behavior and guide your actions. Emotional intelligence helps you in confronting any challenging scenario.

High self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence. Self-aware people have a purpose, influence, and achieve success in their lives. When you incorporate these key attributes into your work life, you’ll lead a competent and passionate team and bring desired results.

A few measures that help manage emotional intelligence are: 

  1. Know your patterns. Identify the emotional triggers that often take you off track. 
  1. Listen, analyze, and then respond to other people. 
  1. Value everyone’s uniqueness and appreciate them.
  1. Choose patience and empathy over conflicts.
  1. Take breaks. If you feel overwhelmed, slow down to recover whenever necessary.
  1. Be mindful while interacting with people who hold contrary opinions.

  • Efficient decision-making to overcome challenges

When you’re in a leadership position, your decisions have high stakes. You have the power to influence the lives of team members, organizational stakeholders, and the company at large. It’s essential to make good decisions when you’re leading a team.

Efficient decision-making must be one of your strengths in all your leadership roles.

Here are some tips to help strengthen your decision-making skills: 

  1. Manage your emotions and the emotions of visibly-disturbed teammates.
  1. Analyze the pros and cons of whatever issue is at hand.
  1. Limit the choices, so you don’t take forever to conclude.

  • Strong mentoring skills

A great leader is known for empowering other people, which improves organizational productivity. The best way to lead a team is by mentoring members and supporting their growth and development.

People often see the leader as a role model to lead an organization. Mentoring others is a soft leadership skill that brings integrity to the team. Here are a few tips to become a great mentor to the people who look up to you: 

  1. Bridge the gap between your actions and words. When your actions match your words, it enhances the trust of your team to follow the path you show them. 
  1. Understand the team’s drives and assign tasks that are exciting for the teammates and essential for the organization.

Leadership requires mastery of a variety of skills. Soft skills are often overlooked, but they’re just as important as your technical and managerial abilities.

The conversation of soft vs. hard skills for leaders reflects a more profound truth: Leadership is not just a programmed set of tasks you check off daily. It’s not a formula you follow or a code you adhere to. Authentic leadership comes from the heart. Genuinely caring about others is at the core of all soft skills that can empower you to be a more effective leader. If you don’t care about your people, they likely won’t care about you or the company.

We all want to know that our work is important and that what we do adds to something meaningful. Improving your soft skills and showing your team you care doesn’t have to add a lot to your plate, but it does have to be a priority in your days. Start small and learn as you go. It will make all the difference.

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