6 leadership soft skills for managers

January 30, 2024 By Kit Germeroth

Effective leaders make all the difference for a company. For years, research has shown that employees who leave their jobs aren’t looking to get away from a bad company. Instead, they’re leaving bad managers. Good leaders mean better employee engagement and retention. And that’s not all.

Improving leadership can increase earnings by an average of 147% per share. This isn’t just because great leaders understand business. Many corporate leaders move across industries because of their transferable leadership skills. “Hard” skills include the technical knowledge you need to excel in a role, but “soft” skills can be even more important when it comes to getting the best out of teams.

Workplaces increasingly recognize that soft skills are just as important as traditional hard skills, especially for leaders. Soft skills enable leaders to empower their teams and help them to realize their potential. 

But what kind of soft skills should you be looking for, and how can you help develop the leaders within your organization?

6 important soft skills for leaders

Let’s look at some of the most important leadership soft skills managers need to master.

1. Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of effective leadership. All other soft skills rely on great communication to be effective. For managers, good communication means being able to effectively convey information both verbally and non-verbally. 

The best leaders can have clear, constructive dialogues with staff across your organization that will leave them feeling understood, supported, and assured of their next steps.

Leaders can train communication skills by learning to be more aware of their body language and paying close attention to the words they use.

2. Listening

Listening is technically a part of communication, but it’s important to consider it separately. Great leaders actively listen to what the people around them are saying, ask the right questions to understand different perspectives, and ensure that others feel heard. Beyond just hearing the words someone says, active listening requires picking up on non-verbal cues and contributing to the conversation to demonstrate you understand and empathize with the person you’re speaking with.

Leaders wanting to develop their listening skills might want to focus on active listening skills, learn to confirm that they’ve understood messages correctly, and practice responding thoughtfully in conversations.

3. Empathy

Empathy, a soft skill that’s closely linked with listening, is the ability to understand other people’s perspectives and treat them with kindness and compassion. Empathetic leaders build high levels of trust with their team members, which makes it easier to help them achieve their potential.

Empathy can be trained just like any other skill. Empathy training often involves trying to “put yourself into someone else’s shoes.”

4. Conflict resolution

In any organization, conflict is inevitable. In many cases, disagreements can be beneficial and lead to better decision-making — but only if handled well. This is where conflict resolution skills come in. 

Effective conflict resolution relies on active listening to fully understand both sides before looking for creative solutions and bridging the gap between different individuals.

To build better conflict resolution skills, leaders need to learn how to take the heat out of confrontations using their listening and empathy skills. It’s also important to make sure everyone’s needs are being met.

5. Delegation

Many leaders consider delegation a task they must complete, but delegating well is a crucial skill. Managers who try to do too much themselves or want to micromanage delegated tasks can’t get the best out of themselves or their staff. 

Great delegators find opportunities to let their teams shine and empower them to do just that.

Learning to delegate can be tricky, so leaders have to learn to live with that discomfort. Spending time getting to know teams and recognizing their strengths and weaknesses can make it easier to delegate tasks effectively.

6. Providing feedback

Providing high-quality, actionable feedback is essential if we want our team members to flourish. Workers need to know that their achievements are being recognized, and they also need to be made aware of areas for improvement. 

The best leaders build relationships by providing clear, specific, and empathetic feedback, both positive and negative.

Delivering feedback can be challenging. Managers need to learn to show empathy while clearly communicating any necessary changes. Practicing how to deliver feedback can be invaluable for building confidence.

Support leadership soft skills training

It’s clear that soft skills are keystone elements of effective leadership. Shoring up your catalog of soft skills can help you build better relationships at work and make people more receptive to your leadership and guidance.

While some people are “natural leaders,” leadership skills aren’t innate. Leadership training can be highly effective. For example, helping managers to develop their strengths can lead to an 8.9% increase in productivity. So, how can you help managers within your organization build those leadership skills?

Establish the right culture

Creating a positive work environment is key to helping managers at all levels to build their leadership skills. Soft skills often feel very personal, so providing a safe environment where managers can express uncertainty and explore ideas will be essential. 

A positive work environment has high levels of trust and support and offers space for equal and open discussions. Establishing a culture of learning also helps to continuously empower and engage your employees.

Leverage the right tools

Harnessing the right learning management system (LMS) can also help you create the ideal learning environment. Ensuring that your LMS is adaptable and easy to use with appropriate integrations allows managers to approach new skills in a comfortable and natural way. Being able to adapt training to meet your needs keeps learning relevant and keeps staff motivated.

With Moodle Workplace, leaders can choose the most beneficial learning journey for their needs to help support their teams. Using the dynamic rules feature, managers can be prompted to complete training based on recent evaluations or their activity in other courses. You can also create custom learning pathways for different individuals or teams.  

Moodle also integrates with OpenSesame for out-of-the-box online learning programs so you can get started with leadership soft skills training right away. Check out some of their courses on conflict resolution, active listening, and effective delegation.

Ready to start developing your soft skills?

Get in touch with our experts to learn how we can set up a customized LMS for training your leadership team.