Technical expertise alone is no longer sufficient to steer organizations and teams toward success. The need for leaders to upgrade their soft skills is coming if it isn’t already here! Need evidence? Check out the World Economic Forum’s list of the top 15 workforce skills of 2025 – nearly half being soft skills:
- “Active learning and learning strategies”
- “Critical thinking and analysis”
- “Creativity, originality, and initiative”
- “Leadership and social influence”
- “Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility”
- “Emotional intelligence”
- “Persuasion and negotiation”
By proactively learning new soft skills or honing existing ones, you can elevate your ability to communicate, demonstrate empathy, embrace new challenges, foster meaningful relationships, and more.
Soft skills, also known as interpersonal skills or people skills, are a set of personal attributes and qualities that enable individuals to interact and communicate with others effectively. These skills are essential in various aspects of life, including personal relationships, professional settings, and teamwork. Soft skills are also crucial for leadership roles, as they empower leaders to connect with their teams, inspire trust, and foster a culture of collaboration and productivity.
6 Crucial Soft Skills That Leaders Need to Master:
Communication Skills: The Global Leadership Network shares that great leaders communicate to create movement by applying three levels of communication: Communication through words, through actions, and through others. The people you influence through your words and actions will begin to speak your words and live out your values themselves, and in doing so, they influence others.
As this three-tiered approach to communication takes root, a powerful movement is born. Followers become advocates, carrying the leader’s vision and values beyond the organization’s walls. The true essence of great leadership lies in communicating effectively on all three levels.
Emotional Intelligence (EI): Research now points to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. EI taps into a fundamental element of human behaviors. It enables leaders to understand and manage their emotions and empathize with others’ feelings. Leaders with high EI build trust and rapport with their teams, leading to increased employee engagement, better conflict resolution, and improved decision-making.
Empathy: Empathy allows leaders to put themselves in others’ shoes and understand their perspectives, challenges, and needs. By demonstrating empathy, leaders create a supportive and inclusive environment, leading to enhanced teamwork, motivation, and loyalty.
Research by Catalyst suggests that employees with empathic leaders are more innovative and engaged in their work than employees with less empathic leaders. Empathy is a force for productivity, life-work integration, and positive work experiences.
Empathic Listening: Most people listen with the intent to reply rather than the intent to understand. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Habit #5 in the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
In his book, Covey outlines five levels of listening: ignoring, pretending, selective, attentive, and empathetic. Leaders who empathetically listen demonstrate respect for their team members and foster a culture of open communication, making employees feel valued and heard.
Wisdom for Life offers an enjoyable video summary of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Conflict Resolution: A study conducted by The Myers-Briggs Company found that 85% of employees throughout business experience conflict, spending about 2.8 hours a week engaged in it. Leadership, or lack of it, is seen as a significant element in generating conflict at work. 29% of employees see conflict arise from poor leadership at the top of the organization.
Mastering conflict resolution allows leaders to address issues promptly and constructively, maintaining a harmonious work environment and preventing tensions from escalating.
Adaptability: A recent article from Forbes states that adaptability is a complex skill, but when dissected, it has just two main components – flexibility and versatility. In a rapidly changing business landscape, leaders must be adaptable and embrace new challenges. Leaders who can navigate uncertainty and lead with flexibility inspire their teams to embrace change and remain resilient during turbulent times.
Demonstrating Your Soft Skills as a Leader:
- Schedule one-on-one meetings with team members where there is no agenda, and come prepared to listen
- Be alert to the potential for employee burnout and take the necessary actions to prevent it
- Relax your mind – give yourself the freedom to step back from rigid processes and analytical thinking, allowing you to play with the idea of a new paradigm or thought
- Ask others their opinions, perspectives, and approaches
- Consider implementing an employee recognition program to consistently recognize outstanding performance
- Encourage personal and professional growth by providing opportunities for learning and development – Carew’s Dimensions of Professional Selling® Open Enrollment allows professionals from a wide variety of industries and businesses to experience first-hand our training programs. With our next Open Enrollment date on October 24-26, this is an excellent opportunity for leaders to encourage professional growth for emerging sales professionals.