8 Soft Skills That Make You an Even Better Leader

Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia, recently shared a quote on her Instagram page that caught my attention: “People skills, EQ, ‘soft’ skills, HUMAN skills – these are our anchors. They ground us, remind us that we are real. Without these, we fly away.”

Businesses tend to overlook soft skills and focus on hard skills. When LinkedIn released their list of most in-demand hard and soft skills of 2020 earlier this year, unsurprisingly, the hard skills were dominated by computer skills. With the pandemic hitting the world back in March and the forced shift from brick-and-mortar to work-at-home that trend will only accelerate.

Soft skills are the unsung heroes, though, and LinkedIn’s top five were creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. In giving lectures to executives on soft skills, I like to include three others — time management, storytelling, and cultural awareness.

Understanding each skill and how to amplify them will give you an edge over your competition.

1. Creativity

A good way to breathe fresh ideas into any business is to look to other industries and in other countries. What concepts are they using that might work for your industry? Brainstorm in small groups to avoid conflicts, put together a list, and then present your ideas in front of everyone. Include silly ideas, crazy ideas, anything goes. In fact, sometimes the wilder, the better. Remember, $15 million worth of Pet Rocks were sold. Let that sink in.

2. Persuasion

To understand persuasion, most people agree that Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is the person to turn to. His book goes into the six universal Principles of Persuasion: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus.

Above all, we must not abuse these skills. Sales consultant Jeffery Gitomer puts it this way, People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy,” which is why when applying these principles, we need to consider the wisdom of Aristotle who said, «Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”

3. Collaboration

Collaboration takes teamwork to a whole new level. It brings together people with different skill sets and perspectives to complete a project, often without a leader. Organizations able to tap into this soft skill understand that communication is paramount. It’s critical that all avenues of communication are kept open.

4. Adaptability

This has to the skill of the 21st century. Change is happening at breakneck speed. It’s impossible for us to see what will be just a few years ahead of us. VR augmented reality, and so much more will change how we do business — which is why it’s critical companies stay on top of new technologies rather than wait until they’ve become commonplace. Starting early means the learning curve is low.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Those with high EQ are better able to handle high-pressure situations, conflict resolution, constructive criticism, and more. This ability is highly sought-after for teams, especially ones made up of differing backgrounds.

According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, 75% of hiring managers valued EQ over IQ. Hard skills and intelligence are more easily taught to employees while EQ takes more time and understanding to grasp.

6. Self-Motivation

Overwhelm is something many entrepreneurs must deal with. That’s the world we live in today. That’s where self-motivation comes into play. We must all learn how to manage our energy. Energy comes not just from having a balanced diet, but also from our personal drive to achieve, resilience, and commitment.

A personal drive to achieve is directly linked to our mindset. Research shows that those with a growth mindset are far more like to succeed in the endeavors they engage in because they believe they can improve.

Resilience is born out of courage to overcome challenges. That does not mean we should be flippant with our choices, but rather learn to manage risk, in order to understand the opportunities that best suit our talents and when we should outsource others or simply leave them alone.

Commitment is the surest way to give us anecdotal evidence that we matter and are heading in the right direction. It’s the essence of goal-setting.

7. Time Management

High performance is directly linked to people’s use of time. Most entrepreneurs are already working hard, but what separates those who are succeeding from those who are struggling or failing is their ability to implement the 3Ps: plan, prioritization, and performance.

Plan: Best-selling author Brian Tracy explains the importance of planning saying, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!»

Prioritization: Prioritization is simply understanding where best to use your available resources. Stephen Covey explains there are four quadrants, which break tasks down into their urgency and importance. He goes on to explain that the key is focusing on those that are important, but not urgent.

Performance: This is where the rubber meets the road. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Execution is the game.” Without it, even the best plan will fail.

8. Storytelling

The late American business philosopher Jim Rohn would often illustrate the difference of great storytelling by discussing Cicero and Demosthenes, two great orators of antiquity. “It is said that when Cicero spoke, the masses were awed and would exclaim, ‘What a brilliant speech!’ When Demosthenes spoke, the people would say, ‘Let us march!'» What sets apart storytellers is they have the ability to move people to act. They understand how to reach inside us and touch our souls.

How can one improve their storytelling ability? One solution would be to join Toastmasters which challenges you to create short speeches that pack a punch.

Erin Meyer, an author of The Culture Map, puts it this way, “Millions of people work in global settings while viewing everything from their own cultural perspectives and assuming that all differences, controversy, and misunderstanding are rooted in personality. This is not due to laziness. Many well-intentioned people don’t educate themselves about cultural differences because they believe that if they focus on individual differences, that will be enough.”

Covid-19 may have put a temporary halt on the movement between borders, but once a vaccine is developed, expect that to return. As our world has shrunk, more and more companies have come to understand the benefits, as well as the negatives, of working with a global team.