In 2021, the average unemployment rate in Africa was about 8%, roughly 2% higher than the global average in the same year. High unemployment rates coupled with a low standard of living have forced many to immigrate out of the continent seeking greener pastures.
Sooner or later, they find out that it is not any easier to land a good-paying job outside their homeland. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Foreign born Blacks (immigrants), had the highest rate of unemployment in the US.
Some of the factors responsible for this are language barriers (especially for non-English speaking immigrants), lack of professional network, not having the right soft leadership skills, cultural barriers, and even racial discrimination.
Thankfully, there is a hack, and it all comes down to answering one question “What skills are you expected to have?”. In a long read published on LinkedIn, Hafiz Matti a Nigerian Immigrant to the US summed it up quite nicely. He said,
“It doesn’t matter what you think you know, what truly matters is what your field and industry expect you to know.”
In this article, you’ll get to know the 7 soft leadership skills that employers expect you to have. These skills should help you land your dream job. But first, let’s talk about the differences between soft and hard leadership skills.
What is the difference between soft and hard leadership skills?
Speaking about power, Mahatma Gandhi quipped “power is of two kinds, one is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love”. This quote serves as a good foundation to differentiate between hard and soft leadership skills.
Hard leadership uses fear and reward to produce results. It is essentially based on the carrot-stick motivational approach where a good outcome is rewarded, while a poor outcome attracts some form of reprimand (consequence).
For many years, this form of leadership has been the norm. Those who command fear and respect as well as work under pressure, and of course, possess the core knowledge necessary to excel in their field were considered good leaders. These people excelled in task-oriented activities.
That is to say, success to them was simply a matter of getting the job done. While this may sound like a good leadership model, it can create ill will towards the leaders and a negative work culture. Such leaders are often described with words like narcissistic, overbearing, demanding, etc.
Over time, a new form of leadership has emerged heralded by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi who led with love and compassion. This form of leadership is known as soft leadership. Soft leadership emphasizes people skills without compromising on the task. That is to say, they are both people-oriented as well as task-oriented.
Leaders who possess soft leadership skills are empathetic and inspire others through honest appreciation. Soft leadership skills are great for minimizing attrition in the workplace. They serve as a soft cushion for complex situations that would otherwise cause panic.
Because they are respected rather than feared, soft leaders can communicate effectively with their subordinates. In such situations, employees are willing to open up and talk about the challenges they are facing without the fear of being silenced.
7 core leadership soft skills in high demand
By now it should be clear that gone are the days when a leader could “crackdown” on employees to get the job done. Companies are looking for people with the right leadership soft skills to quell the growing unease in the workplace.
The reason is simple, employee job satisfaction is no longer only about being in the right field but also in a positive work environment. Where such exist, an employee is less likely to feel dissatisfied or incompetent. With that said, here are 7 core leadership soft skills in high demand now. How many do you have?
#1. Interpersonal skills
These are skills that facilitate interaction between people. Interpersonal skills are also known as social skills, people skills, or social intelligence. This is because they underpin the very fabric of our social existence. Without interpersonal skills, it will be difficult to build a positive work relationship with either your superiors or subordinates.
One example of an interpersonal skill is listening. It is commonly said that a good listener is a great leader, this is not far from the truth. People who have formed the habit of listening find it easier to see things from the perspective of others. Interpersonal skill is one of the soft leadership skills that guarantees a harmonious working atmosphere.
This is also an interpersonal skill but deserves a place of its own. Communication has always been considered an instrument of leadership. Great orators like Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela are revered for their communication skills. As it turns out, history will forever remember them as some of the great leaders to walk the earth.
But, what makes communication so powerful? Wielded the right way, communication can serve as a powerful motivational tool to bring about change in the workplace. We will talk more about why motivation is an important asset to have in your arsenal of soft leadership skills in a subsequent subheading.
#3. Conflict management
Diversity is encouraged in the workplace. A diversified workplace is one with employees of varying nationalities, ethnicity, gender, and race. The advantage of this is that the company can draw on unique points of view, ideas, and experiences.
However, that also means there is a greater chance of conflict. Whose voice gets to be heard, whose point of view gets the most attention, etc. Resolving such conflicts is the responsibility of the leader and that is why having this among your leadership soft skills is important.
Project management extols teamwork—and for a good reason. Teamwork increases productivity inspires innovation, reduces burnout, nurtures creativity, reduces mistakes, and encourages personal growth. Perhaps, the best part of working in teams is that team members complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Teamwork is the perfect platform to harness the benefits of cognitive diversity (similar to having a diversified workplace). Individuals with this skill understand their responsibilities to the team and show an aptitude for communication, conflict management, and other interpersonal skills.
Being able to adapt to situations as they arise is one of the must-have leadership soft skills for every leader. The modern workplace presents a plethora of challenges that are sometimes unique. To effectively manage each situation, a leader must be willing to adopt a new perspective and change their strategy.
While this may sound easy, it is one of the most difficult things to do. This is because adaptability involves going against what we know to have worked for years (our comfort zone) to try new things. It means keeping an open mind and approaching new challenges rationally and not emotionally.
The COVID-19 pandemic that swept across the globe brought with it so many changes. Companies that survived were those that could adapt to the changes as they came. This is why it is important to have individuals with a list of leadership soft skills that include adaptability.
#6. Problem-solving skill
Every business is set up with the aim of solving a problem. This is the ability to find solutions to new challenges. Before discussing this skill, we talked about adaptability. The reason is that before a leader can successfully find a solution to a new problem, they must be able and willing to adapt to the new reality.
Einstein understood this when he said, “we cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. What do companies do when they face a problem that they cannot solve? Hire an expert.
However, this is often expensive and most companies would rather have this skill in-house. Consequently, problem-solving skill is highly sought after among leaders. They won’t say it but employers want to see problem-solving skills among your leadership soft skills when they go through your resume.
#7. Time management
Poor time management doesn’t just stop at missing deadlines, and rushing to meetings a full half hour after they started. It has a domino effect that affects the outcome of your day.
The difference between a productive day and an unproductive day is in how efficiently you managed your time. Poor time management is also associated with burnout and work-related stress. So, what happens when an individual experiences burnout?
They make poor decisions, feel overwhelmed and irritable, lack self-control, and are unable to focus. So, it becomes difficult to focus and solve problems, lead a team, quell conflicts, adapt to new challenges, or even communicate properly when you feel burnt out.
Essentially, you’d be shooting yourself in the foot if you acquire all six soft leadership skills above without adding time management to the list.
What is the most important leadership soft skill?
While talking about communication skills, we briefly mentioned motivation. This may not sound like a skill, but it is. Consider a scenario where the company had just been through some challenges and the employees’ morale is down.
The leader (who by the way is equally affected by the situation) has to step up and motivate the despondent employees. To do this successfully, the leader must be able to self-motivate and then transfer this high-spiritedness to the employees.
This is not something that can be feigned. It is easy for people to see when you are only pretending to be motivated. Doing so will only drive employee morale further down the drain. Again, no matter how talented an employee is, if he or she isn’t motivated, they would not give their best.
A highly motivated team is one that can breeze through every challenge they face with enthusiasm to achieve their goal. Motivation is like willpower—and can get low. It falls upon the leader to keep the team motivated. This is why motivation is the most important leadership soft skill.
So, how many of these leadership soft skills do you have and which of them are you working to get in the next 12 months? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box below.