13 Soft Skills for Leadership (With Benefits and Importance)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 19, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As an employee, there are certain skills and qualities to identify you as a leader. These skills make you unique and help you inspire more trust and confidence about your capabilities in your employer. Understanding the nature of soft leadership skills as an employee can help you learn them and opt for leadership roles. In this article, we define soft skills for leadership, list important leadership skills, explore ways to demonstrate these skills in the workplace, and discuss how to highlight these skills during an application.

What are soft skills for leadership?

Soft skills for leadership are the attributes that an employee has that may qualify them to be leaders. They're personality traits that help you communicate effectively with others, handle conflict, manage people and tasks, and help others achieve their goals. Soft skills are important for leaders as they determine how a leader interacts with the team. These skills also affect how they perform in other parts of the job, such as project management, task delegation, problem-solving, budgeting, scheduling, and public speaking. These skills help leaders perform their jobs and achieve maximum output for the company.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

13 soft skills for leaders

As an employee, some of the leadership skills you can possess are:

1. Critical thinking

Critical thinking involves assessing problems and situations and initiating solutions thoroughly. An employee with this skill can review evidence or facts, make analyses, and use them to make decisions. For example, critical thinking helps a leader review candidate's applications, evaluate performance, and make judgements on who to hire. It also helps them evaluate potential business opportunities and decide on the best course of action.

2. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are the ability to relate with people personally. This skill helps you adjust your communication methods, channels, and language to fit the communication needs of others. For example, as a leader, you can show great interpersonal skills by making necessary adjustments to communicate effectively with senior management and colleagues. When an employee or leader possesses great interpersonal skills, it helps employees better understand company goals and improves productivity.

3. Time management

Time management is the ability to plan your schedule and meet set goals and deadlines on various tasks. As a leader, time management skills help you properly plan your activities and work on different tasks while maintaining your timelines. It also enables you to prioritize items on your schedule and focus on the most important events.

4. Attention to detail

Attention to detail is the ability to observe and focus on the minute aspects of certain events. This skill allows you to acknowledge mistakes and areas that require changes. It can also help you identify employees who aren't performing optimally and decide on those who require additional training to perform well in their roles.

5. Decisiveness

Decisiveness involves the ability to make timely and accurate decisions. When facing a problem at work, decisiveness determines how quickly you can decide on required solutions. As a leader, you may make quick decisions regarding task delegations, hiring candidates, and setting deadlines. This skill emphasizes your sense of authority and helps maintain a good level of productivity across different teams and departments.

6. Optimism

Optimism is the ability to see the positive aspect of every situation. It's the ability to assume a positive mindset regardless of what you may be experiencing. Usually, optimism helps establish a positive culture across departments and teams. The skill allows you to be confident in uncertainty while helping employees to stay productive. As a leader, with optimism, you can create a comfortable work environment where employees feel free to communicate and share their concerns.

7. Self-motivation

This skill emphasizes the importance of starting a project or task and completing them with little to no supervision. Self-motivated leaders can influence themselves and others to achieve goals and complete given tasks in time. It also helps them when managing others and evaluating their performance. When employers have employees with good leadership skills, they're more responsive and can learn to work with little to no supervision.

8. Creativity

This skill is the ability to think of solutions to pending issues creatively. It helps you develop unique solutions for specific department or team issues while encouraging collaboration. When you think creatively as a leader, you encourage others to be creative too.

9. Patience

As a leader, it's necessary to be calm in stressful situations while looking for solutions. You can also influence your team to learn to be patient while waiting for opportunities. When a leader is patient, it increases the chances of other employees coming to seek advice on patience. It also affects the relationship between an employer or manager and employees. For instance, patient leaders are more willing to listen to and understand the situation of team members rather than reaching judgmental conclusions.

10. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to feel for people and let them know that you care about their situation. It's a form of emotional intelligence that helps you motivate and unify your team. When team members are in difficult situations, it's important that a leader offers help or solutions. An empathetic leader lets employees know that they're valuable, making them feel valued and more willing to work for the company. An empathetic leader also considers team members when apportioning tasks or evaluations and finds personalized solutions to issues.

11. Delegation of tasks

Delegation is the ability of a leader to assign certain tasks and assignments to team members. As a leader, effective delegation entails understanding the strengths and weaknesses of team members and assigning tasks to them based on these factors. In addition, delegation allows you to focus on other leadership aspects, such as team direction and objectives.

12. Integrity

Integrity is the ability to stay consistent in words, actions, principles, methods, and expectations. It's important for leaders to maintain high moral and ethical standards and make the right decisions regardless of how uncomfortable they may feel. Understanding the importance of integrity and integrating it into work values and culture is also the responsibility of leaders.

13. Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution involves mediation skills that a leader exercises in resolving conflicts in the workplace. This skill involves meeting with all the concerned parties, having joint sessions, listening to all sides, understanding their point of view, and providing impartial feedback. It also involves encouraging harmony by calming heightened emotions and letting each side understand the other's perspective.

Related: 10 Top Soft Skills in the Workplace (With Tips for Hiring)

Soft leadership skills in the workplace

Here are some ways to demonstrate your leadership skills in the workplace:

  • Promote effective communication. Employees are often more comfortable sharing ideas and providing feedback when they have a leader who effectively communicates the team's goals. This makes it important to promote open communication channels between upper management, department heads, and team members.

  • Promote teamwork among employees. You can encourage teamwork by hosting social events where employees converse and form relationships. Hosting regular team meetings to encourage everyone to speak and contribute toward achieving company goals is also useful.

  • Create rules and promote discipline. Taking disciplinary actions and sanctions when necessary is another responsibility of a leader. Taking these disciplinary actions ensures that employees uphold the company's values and culture and produce high-quality work.

  • Connect with your team members. You can connect with employees by being cordial and showing interest in their work. When employees feel valued and have a personal connection with you, they're more likely to work better and more efficiently.

Read more: Why Are Soft Skills Important? (With Definition and FAQs)

Ways to highlight soft leadership skills during an application

When applying for a leadership role, you can demonstrate your soft skills in the following ways:

Soft leadership skills for a resume

When drafting your resume, you can create a skills section to highlight your leadership skills. Ensure that you list leadership skills that are relevant to the prospective job. First, read the job description to identify the skills that the employer wants, then list them in the skills section. You can also highlight the most relevant skill in your professional summary.

Soft leadership skills for a cover letter

When creating a cover letter, you can highlight your soft leadership skills to impress the hiring manager. First, identify the top three leadership skills you've exhibited in the past and identify them in your cover letter. You may give brief explanations of how you exhibited this skill and the positive impact you made. For instance, you can discuss how you managed workplace conflict and maintained smooth work operations.

Soft leadership skills for a job interview

During preparations for an interview, ensure you itemize the relevant leadership skills you have. Prepare a list of possible questions your interviewer may ask regarding relevant skills. Next, prepare appropriate answers to these likely questions. You can research common interview questions and use the STAR approach to answer the questions.

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