3 Soft Leadership Skills to Create a Productive Workforce

Business leaders often focus on hard skills like database management, marketing, and statistical analysis. Those are certainly important! However, there are soft leadership skills that you’ll want to take time to perfect, too.

What are these leadership soft skills, exactly? How might you put them into action?

In this blog, I’m sharing what I believe to be some of the most vital soft skills that leaders should practice. If you master these essential soft skills, not only will you put your company at a competitive advantage, but you’ll foster a successful workforce with loyal team members.

Team members putting their hands in

3 Important Soft Skills for CEOs and Other Leaders

Emotional intelligence and self-awareness are underrated. These soft skills will help you be a good leader.

1. Isolate Areas of Concern

One of the first soft skills you need to spend more time on is truly understanding your team’s input and suggestions.

Let’s say your employees come to you with a complaint, concern, or feedback. You hopefully already know how to be a good listener… but what does that mean, exactly?

It means that even if you already know what you’re ultimately going to tell them, you need to hear your employees out.

Exercise your critical thinking skills and get to the root of the issue. This is one of the most important soft skills you can have.

What This Might Look Like

Let’s go through an example of this very important soft skill.

Maybe your employees are getting ready to launch a huge marketing campaign. They come to you and say, “We just don’t think this is going to work.” They’re feeling discouraged and worried, and they want to shelve the campaign for now.

Team meeting about a marketing campaign

You might already know (or think you know) that this isn’t an option. Even in that case, you need to be open to their feedback. Put your own emotions, agenda, and ego aside and let them speak.

However, you need to take this a step further and find out why specifically they don’t think this campaign is going to be a slam dunk. Not only does this help them articulate themselves, but it also might give you valuable information that you didn’t previously have!

You might end up finding out that:

  • The marketing budget wasn’t big enough to do this properly.
  • You don’t have the staff to maintain this launch.
  • The sales employees aren’t on board, and you really need the support of that team.

The results will go one of three ways:

You decide to go on with the campaign as planned. However, this means that you’ve hopefully assuaged your employees’ concerns so that they can do their jobs with confidence!

You halt the campaign. This means you admit mistakes in the planning process, revisit the important building blocks for a killer campaign, and plan to launch in the future.

You meet in the middle. Maybe you simply delay it by a week or a month so can you address the bigger issues at hand.

Consider all options and dive into their pros and cons. This is an incredible opportunity to learn more about the potential approaches and ideally come to a decision that most or all of your employees can get behind.

Remember, effective leaders practice excellent communication skills and active listening! These are some of the most important soft skills leaders can have.

Team and leader having a meeting

2. Ask Permission to Ask Questions

If your employees express doubt or concern — or if they disagree with something you say — it’s human nature to automatically go on the defense.

You want to refute what they’re saying and prove your point! However, as you now know, one of the many important soft skills you need as a leader and role model is to not only listen, and not only ask questions and learn more… but to ask for permission to do so.

As odd as it might sound, this is one of the key indicators of strong leadership.

What This Might Look Like

Your employees might be expecting you to poke holes in their plans. Instead, ask permission to ask for more information! You can even say, “Okay, I think I see what you’re saying. But can I ask you a few questions?”

This soft skill is a sign of emotional intelligence because you’re approaching the conversation gently. It’s a display of humility and humbleness because you’re not using your leadership to keep your employees down.

And, once again, this is a chance to learn more — maybe something you didn’t know before this conversation.

Leadership soft skills aren’t all about making demands and telling people what to do. You’ve hired managers and a team for a reason.

Let them do their jobs.

3. Always Approach it with Empathy

Don’t assume that your employees are comfortable with disagreeing with you. If they are, be grateful — your team needs different opinions.

Leaders don’t always have the answers. And sometimes, even when they do have the answers, they’re the wrong ones!

Leaders build their teams to do amazing work and own their jobs. So, let your team express different opinions. And when they do, respond with kindness, patience, and understanding.

Team leaders and managers smiling during meeting

What This Might Look Like

How can you exhibit effective communication as part of your leadership style?

This can be as simple as point-blank saying, “I hear what you’re saying.” And then, follow the two previous soft skills I mentioned: Ask for permission to ask questions and get to the root of the problem.

Keep the line of communication open. You will all benefit as a result, and your business processes will flourish.

Soft Skills are Part of Great Leadership

Successful leadership skills go so far beyond making big decisions and being the “boss.” Yes, hard skills matter. But without these leadership soft skills, it’s all a moot point.

Communication skills are a must. Problem-solving skills are mandatory. Empathy and creative solutions are crucial.

Amplify your own strengths and positive personality traits. Always approach your team members with empathy. Prioritize soft skill development alongside hard skills.

If you do these things, you will guide your team with impeccable leadership, and your company culture will blossom.

And guess what? If you’re stuck, ask for help. Find a mentor who can offer soft skills training. A successful leader always knows when to ask for help and isn’t afraid to do so.

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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