Establishing soft skills as a leader can sound like an elementary task. But it is these skills that leaders, employees and workplaces most often miss. They are the skills that allow us to connect with others, heighten our emotional intelligence and overall become more successful in our roles. Many of us should learn soft skills in our first roles, but not all of these skills necessarily stick.
Soft skills may not come naturally to all of us, but they can be learned and become a central core to our leadership. Some may even say soft skills are increasingly becoming the hard skills of today.
For the aspiring leader focused on preparing for interviews, working their way up the ladder or brushing up their resumes, you can easily overlook the most fundamental skills every leader should possess. You may think a two-page resume with the best schools, certificates and an ample amount of references is your ticket to a role as a leader. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
You may have contacts at the Bank of America, but can you manage a budget? You may have a degree from Harvard, but have you ever had to handle conflict?
Developing soft skills is essential. Many times the only way you can learn these critical skills is through experience.
So, let’s take a look at six soft skills essential to every leader:
- Conflict management. Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you know how to handle conflict, but it certainly means you will be faced with it. As you begin to encounter conflict (whether directly or within your team), don’t dodge it. Instead, engage it, embrace it and start to learn from it.
- Strategic thinking. It is one thing to take charge of a situation, and an entirely different thing when you can strategically think through it. The skill of strategic thinking forces you to think ahead through all the variables of a situation. This type of thinking also shows your team you are focused on not only your own plan but all parties involved.
- Integrity. Yes, integrity is a soft skill. For building deep relationships on your team, a deeper trust and an overall atmosphere of loyalty, integrity is a vital skill. Integrity may require difficult conversations, decisions and overall more time from you. But ultimately, it is a matter of displaying honesty and respect for your team as well as your position.
- Civic-mindedness. Civic-mindedness merely means thinking of those surrounding your town, city and organization. How can you work with them? How can you benefit them? In what ways can you contribute to civic engagement in your community? Being civic-minded is being aware of how you can benefit and connect with those outside of your company.
- Situational awareness. Situational awareness is being conscious of people’s time, space, future potential and overall surroundings. An awareness of how your leadership affects individuals in the present and the future will increase your reliability and leadership as a whole.
- Follow through on your vision. Commitment and follow-through with a vision is easier said than done. By learning the skill of following through in every minor instance, you will have a greater capacity to see through the broader vision at hand.
We can often feel that education and connections are all we need to step into a role of leadership. It is the skills you possess that will remain most important to those considering to hire you.
The essential skills you need to become a leader may not be exactly what you think. But they are certainly more attainable than going to Harvard for many. As you begin to develop these soft skills, you will see your influence and team culture drastically improve.