20 Essential Soft Skills Leaders Should Build In The Workplace
As the workplace continues to evolve with advancements in technology, so too are the skill sets demanded by employers seeking top talent. While technical expertise matters, interpersonal soft skills are becoming more important than ever for professional success.
Here, 20 Forbes Business Council members discuss the soft skills that will be increasingly valuable and practical strategies professionals can employ to cultivate and sharpen these skills. Whether you’re a seasoned executive or just starting your career, understanding and working on these skills will be crucial to thriving in the workplace.
- Reverse Mentorship
Part of being a leader means cultivating next-level leaders while also remaining open to learning from them. If you have the ability to upskill through exposure to diverse opinions, then you will be able to keep up with evolving market and workplace dynamics as different generations enter the workforce and change business expectations. – Afshan Hussain, Havas Health & You
- Continuous Learning
One crucial soft skill for the future workplace is continuous learning. Professionals can cultivate this skill by adopting a growth mindset, seeking feedback, staying curious, embracing experimentation and developing adaptability. Continuous learning also involves the ability to unlearn ingrained concepts and learn from scratch, challenging assumptions that may have seemed written in stone. – Mila Smart
- Dignity and Respect
Dignity and respect are valuable soft skills for the workplace of the future. Surprisingly, it’s still in short supply. I see people being disparaging to those they disagree with all the time. Kindness is chemistry, and these behaviors are the gateway into the human brain. When you demonstrate dignity and respect consistently and predictably, those on the receiving end will build a relationship around your needs. – Robert M. Donaldson, Collaborative Strategies Consulting Inc.
Demonstrating empathy can strengthen staff relationships, promote trust and understanding and create an inclusive and supportive environment. It encourages staff to share ideas, increasing morale, innovation and productivity. Leaders can cultivate empathy through active listening, encouraging open dialogue and displaying empathy in their actions and words. – Ryan Adams, GeoLinks
- Verbal Communication
Verbal phone skills are valuable skills! It’s surprising how many younger employees are uncomfortable making phone calls compared to email or texting. Our customers want to speak with us on the phone. Communication style and methods have changed over time, but professionals need to know how to have a clear phone voice, patience, good listening and strong verbal communication skills. – Nasutsa Mabwa, ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons
The world will continue to evolve, so those who develop the resilience to overcome obstacles will succeed. To build resilience, focus on building a trusting relationship with your boss and co-workers. Those relationships are key to resilience because no one accomplishes anything alone. Having someone you can depend on is key in challenging situations. – Liz Haberberger, Dale Carnegie Missouri
Have a keen sense of self-awareness. An unfiltered understanding of your strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement will take you far. This self-awareness allows you to make informed decisions about your professional development and adapt your approach as needed. This makes you able to accept constructive criticism and focus more clearly on goals and areas of improvement. – Elizabeth A. Douglas, Esq., Douglas Family Law Group
- Active Listening
Design, analysis, product and service development and delivery all depend on understanding what people want and need. The best way to collect that data is active listening. This means being able to assess not only what is being said but the tone, intonation and body movement, which all are key parts of communication. – Gary Romano, Civitas Strategies
Adaptability is a crucial skill. The only thing constant in business is change. This could be anything from technology to leadership changes and everything in between. Whatever change it may be, the key is to take the time to understand what the changes are so you can quickly go through the change curve and embrace the change in front of you. By doing this, you can position yourself as a valuable asset. – Sherry Taylor, Office Depot
- Communication and Collaboration
The essence of leadership will be leading diverse teams with a strong focus on communication and collaboration—skills often seen in women leaders. However, societal biases still favor traditional views of leadership as aggressive and tough, which are traits typically associated with men. We’re committed to reshaping these perceptions and championing a more effective leadership model. – Julia Rafal-Baer, ILO Group
- Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence will be crucial in the future workplace. It involves empathy, self-awareness and interpersonal skills. Professionals can cultivate it by practicing active listening, understanding different perspectives and regulating their own emotions. – Tomas Keenan, Step It Up Academy
We are frequently triggered in business. As we work with people who are different from us, many of us have the responsibility of leading them. An essential interpersonal skill to develop is self-regulation. Our ability to be self-aware enough to know that we are being triggered and then choosing to manage our tone, facial expressions, body language and energy is key. Self-regulation also increases credibility. – Bill Dickinson, C3 Leadership
- Self-Reliance and Autonomy
Self-reliance and autonomy will be crucial soft skills in the future workplace, especially as the world shifts towards remote work. Professionals can cultivate this by setting personal goals, managing their time effectively and continuously learning to solve problems independently. – Nick Zviadadze, MintSEO
- Anger Management
The most important skill is anger management. The workplace of the future will undoubtedly become more diverse, attracting many unique humans with different experiences and resources. These cultural differences may cause conflicts to occur. Therefore, it is most important to control your own emotions while being considerate of the other person’s feelings. – Karita Takahisa, UNIFY PLATFORM AG
- Video Chat Behavior
Video meetings are here to stay! Professional video chat behavior, like proper camera setup, looking into the camera instead of the corner of your screen and great lighting, make all the difference. Book a session with a career coach or search YouTube for resources on how to improve your video chat skills. – Emily Reynolds Bergh, R Public Relations Firm
Vulnerability creates trust, and trust is the currency of leadership and inspiring others to do great work. It doesn’t mean spilling your heart on everything and crossing professional boundaries, but it does mean recognizing the humanity in others and drawing out the best in others by “going first” to build a culture of trust. – Jason Murray, Fringe
- Work Ethic
I think in an ever-changing labor market where employees are becoming more assertive when it comes to what they want, one soft skill that employers will value the most is work ethic. The ability to turn up and do over and beyond what is required will be a big game-changer in a world where quiet quitting has become the norm. – Erik Pham, Health Canal
Compassion will be increasingly important as our country struggles through issues like health care costs and access, a broadening wealth gap, housing affordability, education costs, automation and all the other factors that make stress a limiting factor in the workplace. People are people, not “resources,” and seeing them as such is critical for restoring dignity and commitment to work. – Cameron Deemer, DrFirst
- The Ability to Connect with Others Digitally
The ability to form true, connected relationships with others through a virtual platform is going to be a superpower. Teams are getting more and more spread out, so people are going to have to be prepared to achieve connection digitally. Leaders who are real and vulnerable can create enough safety to openly discuss the reasons why their teams aren’t naturally getting better results and progress. – Alex Cooke, Phase 3
I love people with lots of initiative who are self-aware enough to really align and ask “why” questions before they run with something. Initiative absent of alignment can often create a lot of rework, and time is money. – Courtney Folk, Renewal Logistics
I Power Seeds
Here are our takeaways and thoughts - pause and reflect, then nourish and grow!
As leaders we don’t naturally or innately have these soft skills. Through seeds and cultivating, leaders can grow their soft skills.