When you look at successful leaders, today and throughout history, you’ll notice similar patterns of behavior. Whether they’re leading troops into battle or pioneering the next big tech revolution, a leader’s soft skills – for example, their ability to take charge of a situation, make sound decisions, and inspire action – will greatly influence how effective they are.
Hard skills are important to career success, too. You probably won’t have much luck becoming a IT leader if you don’t understand database management or network security. And, you probably won’t come to lead a web design team if you don’t know user interface design or HTML. But these skills are learnable. You can take a class, get certified, or (easiest of all) watch YouTube videos in your spare time to improve a technical skill.
But soft skills, because they’re not as easy to pick up, are much more valuable. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report, 80% of employers say soft skills are increasing important to company success. Which means they’re increasingly important to YOUR success – especially if you’re looking to climb the ladder.
So, as you prepare to step into leadership, and as you grow throughout your career, keep these soft skills in mind:
1. Communicating effectively
Communicating clearly and effectively – an important skill for contributors – is even more important for leaders, who have greater responsibility as well as a team to care for.
2. Developing and training others
Successful leaders are driven to develop not only themselves, but others. Though recognition, constructive feedback, and regular check-ins, leaders will foster growth on their team.
3. Driving results
No longer focused on delivering results themselves, leaders must be able to achieve results through others. This requires big-picture thinking and a desire to see things through.
Influencing others requires strong communication skills, plus the ability to inspire action. Leaders who connect well with others and are comfortable voicing their options will be good influencers.
5. Leading others
Leading others is the name of the game. To do this, leaders must set performance expectations for the team, provide adequate resources, and delegate the right tasks to the right people.
6. Making sound decisions
With greater decision-making power, leaders must be quick to consider various courses of action, weigh potential risks, and know who to consult for guidance – all without deliberating too long.
7. Planning and organizing
Planning and organizing takes on new meaning at the leadership level. Leaders must develop plans for the team and hold team members accountable to ensure that goals are met.
8. Relationship management
Building and maintaining healthy relationships – in and outside the organization – is key to leadership success. Leaders must make time to engage with others and connect in meaningful ways.
Every leaders will face challenges. Those who respond with composure, optimism, and hardiness – and can model healthy stress management behaviors to others – will be most successful.
10. Teamwork and collaboration
All leaders are collaborators. To accomplish shared goals, they must be able to establish mutual trust and accountability, keep a positive attitude, and encourage team members to stay on track.
Honing your soft skills
While some people may be born leaders, not every aspiring exec will be an ace all of these areas. In fact, most won’t. And that’s ok! The important thing is that you know where you’re strong and what you need to work on to close any gaps. If you have communication style that tends to dominate conversations, for example, you can make conscious effort to listen more than you talk. If you have a tendency to overthink things when you need to make quick decisions, you can set a timer to keep yourself on track.
Whatever the case, when it comes to career advancement, self-awareness is your best weapon. If you’re interested in learning more about your soft skills, or career trends in general, connect with us today and follow the Career Insights blog.