How important are soft skills in successful leadership?

First of all, we need to define what we mean by ‘soft skills’ – and then we can explain in more detail why they matter, and how to develop them in your own leadership.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the intangible, interpersonal skills that make up who we are. While we can measure and list specific ‘hard skills’ like being good with numbers, planning, IT and coding, and other qualified skills, these ‘soft skills’ are just as important, but less simple to define.

Soft skills are things like:

  • Being a team player.
  • Flexibility.
  • Resourcefulness.
  • Confidence.
  • Creativity.
  • Reading body language.
  • Good communication.
  • Organisation.
  • Approachability.
  • Adaptability.

As you can see – this list, which includes some but not all of what we identify as soft skills, has a lot of traits we want to see, in our leaders, in our employees – in ourselves!

But they are skills which some people struggle to connect with, and which can be hard to quantify. To what extent can one say one has ‘resourcefulness’ and how can that be measured in a way that can help you to decide which person to recruit, when they have identical ‘hard skills’ and you need a strong, reliable leader to take your company forward? Do these things really come into the decision making process when you’re recruiting or promoting someone into a senior role?

Well – to put it bluntly – heck yes!

Why do soft skills matter?

Great leadership is about far more than knowing more than others, or being able to perform tasks and routines to a strict schedule. It’s more than qualifications and expertise.

Leaders are there to support, guide and inspire growth – they are there to encourage the workforce to be their best, to perform well, and to be innovative and creative.

Someone who isn’t at least able to understand these things, who is focussed solely on numbers and unable to factor in humanity and what drives people, is far less likely to create the right kind of culture or environment.

However, if you encourage emotional intelligence, adaptability and resilience in your people, they will thrive in a position of authority.

Employees are far more than machines who perform tasks and tick off actions on a to-do list – they are complex people with a range of experiences, histories and personalities, who all learn in different ways, perform in different ways, and respond to different stimuli in unique ways. Some will thrive if they are given a target, others will crumble under the pressure. Some need a firm hand with consequences for poor performance, others panic under that kind of regime. Some want to be guided through each process carefully, and others want more autonomy and dislike being watched over.

Understanding these different approaches and being able to adapt the way you treat different personalities in your team is vital if you want to succeed – and creating a culture in which everyone can feel secure, heard and respected encourages people to perform better, to suggest more ideas, to push the organisation forward.

How can I tap into my ‘soft skills’ and be a better leader?

We have a wealth of tools available that help you to learn more about who you are, what makes you tick, and what your innate personality traits are – and from there we can help you to learn how to play to your strengths, how to boost areas you find yourself struggling, and how to better communicate with others – at every level.

Step one to being a better leader is to understand exactly who you are – and then commit to being a better version of that self – and we have a wide range of learning programmes, both classroom and online learning, which can be tailored to suit your specific needs.

Call us today to hear more about our programmes, and explore our catalogue of training and development courses to learn how we can help you.