11 leadership Soft Skills That the Top Professionals Have

Are you among the roughly 50% of Americans hoping for a promotion or raise? If so, you’ll need to elevate your leadership ability and learn how to become a candidate that gets the attention of decision-makers. That means honing how you handle anything from tricky decisions and building collaborative teams to navigating frequent volatility and uncertainty. Read on to learn about 11 leadership soft skills that top professionals have!

1. Problem-Solving Skills

Becoming a leader means knowing how to tackle any obstacle in your path, big or small. With about half of all small businesses going under in five years, you’ll need to make savvy decisions. And you’ll need to be creative.

A good leader needs strong critical thinking skills to navigate around roadblocks. A product your company has developed may have technical glitches, for instance. You’ll need to know how to empower those around you to collaborate toward a solution while helping customers stay satisfied on the front end. You’ll have to stay calm under pressure, too. Not every solution will come easily. As a leader, plan on delegating responsibilities, establishing benchmarks, and following up on every effort.

2. Strategic Thinking

Are you good at big-picture thinking? Good leaders can look beyond the minutiae of daily problems and tasks to see what many call seeing “the forest for the trees.”  Your company should be able to work on strategic thinking no matter where you are in an organization’s hierarchy. It’s always important to think about long-range growth within the organization as a whole or your particular role. Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help, either. Talk with individuals in similar roles at other organizations. Doing this can help you refine operational systems and goals for success.

3. Good Communication

Knowing how to communicate well can help any employee earn respect from colleagues. LinkedIn has identified it as the number one most in-demand skill for 2024. 

Clearly, communicating ideas is critical if you want colleagues, co-workers, or other stakeholders to respond to your intentions. Communication isn’t just about speaking and writing skills either. It entails running effective meetings, from creating the agenda to ensuring every team member feels like they have a say. Good communication requires the use of visuals and storytelling too.

It doesn’t hurt to be engaging, either. Recognizing how different people prefer to send, receive, and respond is both art and science. Your vocal inflection, your gestures, your pace, and even your choice of words must be considered.

4. Strong Listening

While clear and ongoing communication is critical, your relationship with others can’t be one-sided. You’ll need to be an active listener, too. That means soliciting feedback, even if it’s hard to hear, and making a consistent effort to engage with employees.

Don’t be the unreachable leader at the top of the organization or team. You need to be visible to build trust and buy-in. Informal and more formal meetings can help facilitate this engagement. Schedule times when you can meet with teams or individuals to hear their insights. Offer questions in advance so those with whom you meet can think more deeply about their answers. Avoid interrupting and instead let them speak freely.

5. Mentorship Skills

When it comes to leadership skills, mentorship can be a forgotten one. But in-demand leaders know how to help shape the employees working around them into better leaders, too.

Meet one-on-one with those in positions below you. Help them establish professional growth goals and determine a career path. Work with them to leverage their existing gifts more fully.

Schedule retreats for different teams to help promote togetherness and collaboration. Expect that managers will meet with team members to do the same. After all, you can cultivate an organizational culture that embraces mentorship, too. It doesn’t just have to be just you.

Assign mentors to new employees. As a result, new employees will have a sounding board and the opportunity to learn more about the organization.

6. An Adaptable Mindset

Leaders must be flexible to excel in their roles. While communication was LinkedIn’s top skill, their research revealed that adaptability was the most in-demand skill of the moment. All indications suggest it will remain in the spot for the near-future.  Change is happening more frequently, unexpectedly, and unpredicatably. It’s essential that you be flexible and adaptive enough to understand that uncertainty is a way of life and there may be more than one good way to a solution.

Adaptive leaders can pivot when situations get sticky. They can think quickly and differently, and pivot when projects evolve or fail to hit benchmarks.

And most importantly, good leaders can make these quick changes while staying calm, cool, and collected under pressure. If you’re aiming to be adaptable, consider hypothetical situations and how you might react. When you’re thinking about every possible scenario or outcome, it will be easier to make a measured response.

7. Confidence

Confidence is an outcome of leaders with an adaptive mindset. They recognize mistakes will be made and new challenges will surfact often. It’s adaptability that helps them see alternatives, opportunities, and hope. Alternatively, the meek employee is less likely to find success with career advancement. Confidence goes a long way toward fueling professional growth.

With that being said, confidence can show itself differently. Regardless of style, confidence always should be authentic to earn buy-in from others in the organization. Trying to be bombastic or over the top may turn people away or make them question your motives.

Some leaders will be calm and measured in how they move forward with an initiative. Others may be more declarative. But both of these styles can show confidence in the decisions at hand.

8. Sound Decision-Making

You wouldn’t want to work for a leader who makes erratic and poor decisions. That means you can’t be that way as a leader, either. If you’re seeking personal growth and career advancement, you’ll need to show that you take a deliberate and inclusive approach to decision-making, even when decisions need to be made quickly.

You may need to focus on change readiness if your company needs to remake itself. In these scenarios, you’ll need to make and unpack decisions so your team can understand how they’ll be helpful long-term. Involve your colleagues in decisions whenever possible. Make sure you always have a rationale for the decisions you need to make. A manager may ask you what led you to a choice. And it’s always to your benefit to make the case for why you made a certain determination.

9. Continuous Learning

Good leaders are eager to learn and improve. Personal growth needs to be an ongoing process. Choosing to stagnate and assume you already know everything only communicates arrogance.

Seek out professional development opportunities. And try to do so on your own, without nudging from your superiors. You’ll show initiative and might just find options you’re more likely to feel engaged doing.

Take seminars or webinars where you can learn from seasoned experts. Take classes that meet regularly, too, so you can build your knowledge over time.

You also can build your credentials by seeking out certificates or micro-credentials. Up your game creation spreadsheets or managing projects. You’ll set yourself up for career advancement and make a positive impression on those around you.

10. Emotional Awareness

As a leader, there will be moments when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. You may be angry or frustrated. In those heated moments, it can be hard to suppress emotions.

But as a leader, you’ll have to be cautious about how and when you express emotions. This is called demonstrating emotional intelligence. Knowing how to manage or regulate your emotions can help you present a more professional and level presence as a leader.

While refraining from emotional outbursts generally is advisable, you don’t need to bottle everything up all the time. There will be moments where showing sadness about budget cuts or the ability to emphasize is important. You’ll need to know how to read the moment and act appropriately.

11. Good Time Management

Last but not least, strong leaders need to be able to manage their time efficiently. If you can’t prioritize and set deadlines, you’ll have a tough time climbing into better positions. Poor time management means you’ll jeopardize performance and risk missing critical deadlines.

Time management is an area where anyone can improve, however. Don’t feel like you’re destined to be a certain way. With the help of time management courses or software, you’ll be able to divide up your days more productively.

Block out your time and don’t let meetings run beyond their intended time limit. But also schedule time for exercise, snacks, and other breaks that can help fuel you through the day. Good time management isn’t always about packing in as much work as possible.

Develop Better Leadership Soft Skills

When you invest in honing your leadership soft skills, you’ll position yourself to thrive as a leader and in life. Focus on improving your communication and listening skills, and know how to control your emotions. Be deliberate as you approach decisions yet adaptable in challenging times.

At AQPlus, we can help you and your employees develop the growth mindset needed to thrive. With 25 years of experience, we have a proven track record of building more adaptive leaders in the workplace. 

Contact us today to learn more!

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First things first: what does grit even mean? You’ve probably heard the advice “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” attributed to coach Kunte Rockne. That quote captures the essence of grit.  The character trait of grit often refers to passion, the consistency of interest, and perseverance, the ability to endure tough times.

For instance, we’ve all experienced setbacks. They could range from struggling to learn a new skill, recovering from an injury, losing a job, or even bankruptcy.

What Does Grit Look Like?

People with high levels of Grit are confident in achieving long-term goals. They are often described as ‘determined’ and ‘hard workers’. No-pain-no-gain might be the grit motto. Gritty people tend to keep going until the work is done. They take pride in finishing what they start. Their mental focus and emotional stamina are very high. They don’t let short-term gains, negative feedback, or hectic schedules deter them. People with high grit are not discouraged easily; they see setbacks and obstacles as challenges that can be overcome with commitment and hard work. Grit, however, is not always a good thing. Gritty people are often so focused on their goals that they get blinded-sided by outside influences and have blind spots when it comes to alternative ideas. 

People with low levels of grit give up quickly. Setbacks and obstacles easily discourage them. When change happens they can find it difficult to stay on course with long-term goals. They flee at the first sign of trouble and often blame others. They start a lot of projects but get discouraged easily. 

How Grit Can Help Your Business

Why is grit something you need to look for when hiring and developing employees? The future of work is full of opportunity but the journey will be anything but certain. Perseverance and passion will be needed in abundance. These are some scenarios where employees with grit become a beneficial trait for your company.

They Understand That Good Things Take Time

Millennials have often been criticized for their need for instant gratification. While it might be true for some of them, grit had to be part of this generation’s makeup. Now in their 30s and 40s, they have endured school shootings, 9/11 terrorism, and the Great Recession…and they are now growing and thriving. It’s only human to get frustrated when we don’t see the instant rewards from our work. Contributing to a project day in and day out, and not getting recognition or confronting bureaucratic idiocy, is disheartening. Many employees may be tempted to just quit.

If your employee has grit, however, they know good things take time. Setbacks are not failures, but part of the journey.  When personal interests align with goals, it’s easier to persevere and feel that your efforts will be rewarded. People with grit stay and push through.