The Top 6 Soft Skills For Business Leaders
If you’re a leader within your organization you may have an MBA, decades of work experience, or a precocious knack for management (or maybe even all three). But sometimes, even the most prepared person needs leadership resources. Just because you have a leadership title, doesn’t necessarily make you an effective leader. So what does?
Being at the top of any organization is scary. The success of the business and your employees’ success ultimately rest on your shoulders. For many people, it’s easier to focus on the purely business side of things rather than the people side of things. The business stuff, after all, is easier to control. You can use hard data to predict what will happen next and you don’t have worry if you’re going to hurt the business’ feelings. However, if you don’t have an effective team full of people who understand and support your business ideas, your plans won’t have any legs.
This is why an effective leader must be fearless in their communication with their team and with the wider corporate organization. If you want your plans for the future of your organization to be successful, then you have to make sure that your team is on board. If there is any resistance, then you have to confront it head-on. Hopefully, a healthy dialogue about your vision will lead to a team that is full of members who will make your project successful in the long run, despite any discomfort those conversations may initially cause.
If you’ve ever found yourself having a moment of truth with an employee or a team, you know how frustrating those conversations are and you know how stressful and unpleasant the work environment is for everyone in the weeks or months leading up to that conversation. While it’s always good when dysfunction is addressed, an effective leader knows that such conversations should come early and often.
Being proactive in addressing any issues that your team has with your plan, project, or vision is the best way for you to ensure that your team is working productively. That communication also allows for you to see any real issues early so that you can make necessary changes to ensure success.
When you are a leader, your time is precious. You’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions. And so, it’s easy to rely just on one-way communications: email, text message, or just offering short directives. They have their place. However, nothing takes the place of connecting with people.
Proactive, fearless communication takes engagement: the effort to give attention to people, be interested in them, and connect with them. We have a first-hand seat at witnessing effective leaders develop habits of intentionally connecting. They see engagement as conversation, not dictation. They slow down to create space, look people in the eye, ask questions, actively listen, and clarify what they are hearing. Beyond that, they stay connected by following up to maintain the dialogue. During the day, they also look for opportunities in casual conversations to encourage, compliment and give insight. Engaged leaders know that every interchange is an opportunity to over-communicate the vision and values, thereby, creating engaged followers.
4. Know When to Lead
In our last blog post, we detailed the characteristics of what defines the “art” of leadership vs. management. While there are many traits that point to leadership, the uniting factor of all of them is big-picture, long-term thinking. As you work with your team, bringing them on board to your plan, it’s important not to forget that you are the pilot of a large ship. Being too controlling with the details or implementation of your plan will cause you to lose sight of the big-level ideas you are pursuing and to, metaphorically, crash into the rocks. Don’t be afraid to delegate, inspire, and take the long-view.
5. Know When to Manage
Just as it’s important to not lose sight of what it means to be leader, it is just as critical to recognize when it’s time to be a manager. It might seem counter-intuitive, but an effective leader can easily become a manager who provides their team with the tools it needs. Those tools might be something as immediate as the skills needed to complete projects or something as intangible as an understanding of the rules and systems the team is working within. Without these tools, the team may be fully behind your plan, but they won’t be able to execute it.
So, you may be reading this and thinking: “Wait, you want me to be a leader and a manager? I need to delegate, but I also need to make sure I’m communicating proactively?” Yes. Because an effective leader is, above all, flexible. In business, as in all things, you can’t truly predict what might happen next, and as the leader, it’s up to you to take these unforeseen changes in stride. It’s up to you to look into your leadership toolkit and pull out the appropriate tool to keep your vision on course. Ultimately, that’s what you’re there for. Your team, if they’re firing on all cylinders, will take care of the rest.
Ultimately, these are just the top 6 soft skills needed. There are many more that can be worked on and improved. Nexecute Group has helped companies to thrive by helping them to learn to improve their soft skills.