10 Critical Soft Skills Needed for Developing Leaders
Skills Assessed as Required to Lead Through the Next Crisis
Leading effectively is exciting, not least because of the diverse set of skills you have mastered. A skills assessment will help to evaluate the skills that your leaders possess. Many of these will be hard, technical skills necessary to lead with authority and knowledge. Equally crucial are the soft skills that are often less measurable but essential to lead people effectively.
Research such as the 2020 survey conducted by LinkedIn examining the future of leadership demonstrates that soft skills are ‘more than a bonus, they’re table stakes’. In other words, they are a bare minimum requirement. Despite this, more than half of the survey’s 14,000 respondents don’t think their leaders are good at soft skills and are underprepared to lead in the future.
So the question is, what soft skills will your leaders need to lead their people and engage them in the purpose of your organisation?
Here is a list of the 10 critical skills that your leaders must develop.
#1 Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
Understanding yourself is essential to understanding your emotions, motivations, and reactions. Three things you can do immediately to help develop your emotional intelligence are:
- Keep a diary of your emotions (what happened and how it made you feel)
- Note how your responsibilities make you feel (in all your life roles)
- Predict your emotional responses to different situations
With greater understanding of your own emotional response and how to shape it, you will be able to connect with people more effectively.
#2 Effective communication
Communication capability is essential for leaders to master. Being able to listen actively will help you understand and analyse people’s emotions and their challenges. Only then can you practice thoughtful communication that resonates with your audience.
Especially through times of crisis, when the world, industries, teams, and individuals are in chaos, a positive attitude is essential to lead and inspire. Positivity demonstrates confidence in the future, in the business strategy, and in your people. It helps to build the resilience needed to cut through external and internal issues over which you have no influence.
#4 Critical thinking and problem solving
You’ll need to use your knowledge and experience to analyse the plethora of data and facts available before making bold decisions. The ability to think on your feet does not mean making immediate, ill-considered decisions, but rather rapid assessment to develop creative solutions where problems exist.
It’s mission-critical to inspire and motivate your people. This requires a deep knowledge of individuals, because we are all motivated by different things. The key is to understand what it is that each person needs to do their work effectively, and offer the support they need as they develop.
#6 Relationship building
Building relationships is central to achieving all you are capable of as a leader. You will give and receive feedback positively (even when it is negative), show interest in people’s lives, recognise and reward contributions, and help people to understand where they fit in and why they are important.
#7 Conflict management skills
Of course, you will also need to deal with people who have bad attitudes or whose poor behaviour jeopardises team spirit. You will be judged on how you handle volatile team members and situations.
#8 Have a learning mentality
It is as important to develop yourself as it is to help your team develop. This means making time for self-development, which can be a challenge with everything else that requires your attention. Create time to develop your own skills through reading, networking with others, and taking courses or attending webinars.
#9 The art of delegation
You cannot do everything yourself. Delegation is vital to lead a team to peak performance and realisation of potential. You’ll know when to delegate work and who to delegate work to. You’ll need to use your knowledge of people’s strengths and weaknesses to get tasks done efficiently, but also their goals, likes, and dislikes to ensure that motivation is maintained, and personal development continues.
It will be essential that your people feel comfortable enough to approach you, discuss their issues, and seek your support. They need to trust you. Trust, of course, is built over the long term and founded on honesty, accountability, knowledge, vulnerability, and integrity.
Is it time for a skills assessment?
When was the last time you assessed the skills of your incumbent and developing leaders?
Leading a team effectively requires much more than competence in hard skills. The crises we have navigated through 2020 into 2021 highlight the need for a collection of soft skills. To be a successful leader requires you to embed these soft skills, and this requires coaching, time, practice, and feedback on which you act.
You can start now by taking the Leadership Challenge skills assessment.
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