3 Soft Skills Every Great Leader Needs

Female leader at work

Soft skills get a bad rap. Yet, more organizations are requiring development on the softer side than ever before.

So, what's the deal?

"Companies have moved away from the 'command and control' decision-making style," says Marie Holmstrom, the Charlotte, N.C.-based director of talent management and organization alignment with Towers Watson. "Managing day-to-day decisions takes away [leaders'] perspective and capacity to focus. Leaders must lead through others. You don't accomplish that only with technical skills. You have to have [those skills], but to achieve the next level of success, you have to be able to lead through others."

Research from HBR states, "Once people reach the C-suite, technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals." In a nutshell, soft skills.

Female traits are winning.

There are a lot of experts jumping on the bandwagon of the evolving leadership model. Soft skills have always been at the heart of great leadership. With the research that John Gerzema and Michael D'Antoniove published in their recent book, we need to take note that two-thirds of survey respondents felt that "the world would be a better place if men thought more like women."

I always associate the softer side with female traits. However, I can't tell you how many times I have been told I wasn't "warm and fuzzy" enough as an HR leader. That's insulting to say the least, as I am sure a man in a similar position would not be given that feedback. However, I did embody loyalty and intuitiveness—both feminine traits and in the category of soft skills.

I am relieved of this renewed focus on the softer side. It allows women to lead as an authentic woman, and men to exude some of their innate qualities that otherwise might stay hidden.

Here are three soft skills every leader should be demonstrating on a daily basis to raise their game, lift up their teams, and help their organizations reach their goals.

1. Strong Communication Skills

Manager using her soft skill of clear communication to lead two members of her team


Whether in speaking or in writing, communicating up, down, and across is always important. How you communicate is even more crucial.

Those who know how to articulate their point with influence, directness, and compassion are demonstrating a real ability to raise their organization's game.

2. The Ability To Influence

Male manager using his influential soft skills to meet with his team


In order to influence your customers, vendors, board of directors, team, and other management, you need to be savvy. Influencing takes a soft touch, time to understand your audience, and the ability to bring them to your side of the table.

3. Humility

Female boss using her soft skills to effectively lead an office meeting


Yes, I put this in the top three. Humility can be defined as the quality or state of being humble; a modest opinion of one's own importance or rank.

In today's environment, leading with power and authority, albeit effective at times, are going by the wayside. Leaving your ego at the door and allowing others to lead with you is paramount to the future growth of your team and organization.

This, my friends, is humility.

There's nothing warm and fuzzy about these skills. They're just the softer side of the skills we all need to be a game-changing leader. If you want to be a great leader, focus on developing and practicing these three skills on the job today. The success of your team depends on it!

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This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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