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11 Soft Skills that Every Leader Must Have

Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD


“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” –  Robert Greene


“Soft skills get little respect, but will make or break your career.” – Peggy Klaus


“Soft skills have more to do with who we are than what we know.” – Marcel B. Robles


Every successful leader possesses soft skills. Leaders use soft skills in a variety of ways. They interact with their employees. They inspire them and help them through the hard times. In this article, I am going to highlight some of the most important soft skills that every leader must have.

Before we look at the most important soft skills critical to successful leadership let’s find out what soft skills are. Soft skills are our traits of character and a range of different abilities responsible for our success in a particular role. 

Soft skills are important for every leader for a variety of reasons. First of all, they are all important for companies’ productivity and performance. The ability of a leader to manage their team successfully often depends on their ability to prioritise things, develop strategies, listen to their colleagues and workmates, and take their ideas and contributions on board. 

So what are the most important skills that every leader must have?


Communication Skills 

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” –  Anthony Robbins


Every leader must be able to communicate effectively. He or she needs to be open-minded and accepting of their employees’ perspectives and ideas. Every leader must listen carefully and take note not only of what they hear, but also pay attention to their employees’ body language and other non-verbal cues. Every leader should also be able to know how to communicate in writing, understand the relevant etiquette and know grammar well. 


Teamwork Skills

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” –  Hellen Keller


Any successful leadership depends on teamwork skills. These skills include cooperating with others, sharing ideas, helping employees achieve success and helping them pull through difficult times. An effective leader is always able to navigate social situations and help his or her workers resolve conflicts at work without making feel anybody upset. 


Mentoring Skills 

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” –  Bob Proctor 


Every good leader should be a good mentor. Every leader needs to inspire and motivate his or her employees and colleagues. Leaders also should be passionate about their views and they should be able to transmit these views to others. When leaders mentor their employees, they help them build confidence. And it is very important to bear in mind that leadership is not something that benefits only your employers. Rather, it is something that can actually lead your company to success. 


Decision-Making Skills

“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” –  Michelle Obama.


Leaders must be able to make good decisions. It is their responsibility and, in fact, in their best interests to consider all perspectives of a matter they are looking at, compare all advantages and disadvantages and then make the right choice or decision. Great leaders must also be able to act decisively when facing a difficult situation and having limited time. Importantly, great leaders do not let their emotions get in the way of their decision-making.



“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” –  Albert Schweitzer.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is also the ability to see things from other people’s perspectives and to put yourself in their shoes. Empathetic people are able to actively listen to their interlocutors, they don’t mind it when people approach them with their problems or for advice. 

Empathetic people often think about how other people feel and they are extremely good at understanding the feelings of other people.  Empathy is extremely important for any leader. If a leader is caring and understanding towards his or her workers, he or she will be able to create healthy work relationships based on kindness, acceptance and mutual respect.  If the leader is empathetic, that means he is more approachable and accessible to his employees. This is extremely important for any company’s productivity.



“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –  Eleanor Roosevelt.


Confident people believe in themselves. They know that they can meet life’s challenges and succeed. They are very realistic of their capabilities and they know how to use them in order to handle difficult life situations. They gain respect from others, they often make a first good impression, they deal with any pressure effectively and they often can put others at ease. Even in challenging situations, confident leaders are ready to admit their mistakes and act as role models for their teammates and co-workers. 


Emotional Intelligence

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions…then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” –  Daniel Goleman.


Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to perceive, control and correctly understand and interpret their feelings and emotions. Most importantly, they can understand and interpret the emotions of other people. Some people say that emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned and improved, while others are convinced that emotional intelligence is an inborn characteristic. 

Regardless, if you are leading a company or a business you must be emotionally intelligent. Your effective leadership will depend on your ability to interpret your emotions correctly when you are facing a difficult situation.


Resilience and Adaptability 

“Change before you have to.” –  Jack Welch.


Adaptable people are able to adjust to new situations no matter how challenging or unpredictable they are.  So as a leader, you need to be able to adapt to changes and, ideally, foresee change. It goes without saying that any workplace is a fast-changing and stressful environment and you need to be comfortable with difficulties and even be able to use them for the sake of your success. 



“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” – Warren Buffet.


It is critically important for any leader to possess integrity. Leaders with integrity are able to build trust with their employees, customers and other important people around them. Such leaders are respected by their colleagues. Furthermore, leaders who possess integrity are also contributing to the overall culture of fostering integrity in their workplace. They inspire their workers to contribute to the company’s prosperity not only out of their selfish motives but due to their genuine desire to contribute.


Desire to Learn and Never Stop Learning

 “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” – Carl Rogers.


Many people who take leadership positions believe that they already know everything and that they don’t need to improve. Such self-complacency and thinking are deeply erroneous. There are so many things that leaders need to learn. 

Take the evolving world of technology for example. Every day we hear more and more about new devices and pieces of technology that can potentially make businesses more efficient and lucrative.  But even if we don’t talk about technology here it is important for any leader to stay curious about new approaches and ideas, which can help their businesses grow and prosper.



“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


When you lead a team you need to understand that those working for you are human beings with their own emotions, feelings and daily struggles. All these factors ultimately shape your employees’ productivity. If you understand that, then you are a compassionate person.

Compassionate leaders also understand that their employees can make mistakes. And instead of punishing them for their mistakes, compassionate leaders help them use these mistakes as opportunities to inspire themselves and grow.



Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

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Chris is from Devon, in the south of England. He has been teaching English as a foreign language for over six years and has taught in China, the UK, Hungary and Spain. He has a background in Music and studied Composition at the RSAMD in Glasgow, Trinity Laban in London and at the University of York. After finishing his master’s at York, he travelled to China to teach and fell in love with it. He has been teaching ever since.

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