Soft Leadership Skills that Make Great Managers

When you think about the best boss you have ever had, they probably had refined these soft leadership skills to help them relate with and inspire others.



Think of the best boss you have ever had. What management skills made them great? Why were they your favorite?    

Chances are they had refined soft skills that have helped them build relationships and relate to others over the years. But being a polished manager requires dedicated work on both hard and soft skills.   

In this article, we will identify five key soft leadership skills you should practice to help you inspire, motivate, and encourage your team. 

1. Communicate Effectively  

The BEST managers have strong interpersonal skills that include being a GREAT communicator. These are people who clearly articulate expectations, set goals, encourage diverse perspectives, and are approachable for others to share their ideas and concerns.  

To be a great communicator, refine the following interpersonal skills.  

Be an active listener  

Display good manager skills by showing your employees you are listening. This is done by expressing concern, making eye contact, nodding, reflecting feeling, summarizing what they said, and then responding.  

Hold regular meetings  

From weekly team meetings to monthly one-on-one meetings, take time to update employees, discuss projects, address challenges, articulate responsibilities, set goals, and answer questions.  

Inform employees of company successes  

Do not wait for a company-wide email to inform your team of a project status or goal achievement. Keep your employees updated before they read about it in a press release or from another employee in a different department.  

Give accurate instructions  

When working with different personalities, some employees need more specific instructions than others. Developing the soft skills to know how to direct people individually is not a skill set that is learned quickly. 

For example, “Get that project completed by 5pm on Thursday” may be specific enough for one employee, but others may need it broken down by steps. “Complete the design by Monday at 5pm and have Engineering approve it by Tuesday night. Bring the prototype to my office by Thursday at 5pm for the presentation on Friday morning.” Have employees restate your expectations if you are ever unsure whether the message was understood clearly.  

Be responsive  

When employees send you an email, leave messages, or share ideas or concerns with you, respond as soon as possible to show you are listening and taking them seriously. Soft skills like responsiveness will make them feel heard and appreciated.  

Encourage feedback   

Feedback is information used for improvement or growth and comes in the form of affirmation/praise or constructive input. (See the next section for more information.) 

2. Give and Receive Feedback   

Feedback is critical to developing your team members and refining your management skills. Both giving and receiving feedback are essential soft skills to being a good leader.  

Giving constructive feedback  

When giving feedback, the goal is not to just “point out flaws” but to help employees develop and grow. Without constructive input, some employees would have no idea that their performance is sub-par and would continue to perform below expectation.    

Prior to giving constructive feedback, ask open-ended questions to understand the situation better. Then, when you give feedback:   

  1. Be timely and specific   
  2. Do it in private and in-person!  
  3. Provide actionable advice   
  4. Show appreciation   
  5. Listen to your employees   

As a manager, you should always reprimand in private and praise in public. Your objective is to recognize their accomplishments and offer constructive feedback in a way that will help them grow.  

Receiving feedback   

The best way for employees to receive your constructive feedback is for you to model how to embrace it. Be open to feedback from your team, peers, and superiors to help you become a better leader and to refine your managerial skills.  

Sometimes feedback will feel more like criticism than constructive feedback. Remember that you are modeling appropriate behavior for receiving input and are likely further along in refining the soft skill of providing constructive feedback than the person criticizing you.  

If you have not received feedback recently, ask for input from your team, your peers, and experienced leaders in your organization. Proactively requesting advice and learning from others will provide valuable insights into your management skills and self-awareness.  

3. Be Well-Organized  

There are few things more frustrating to an organized employee than a disorganized boss. As part of your leadership development, be committed to being more organized with the following:  

  • Prioritize duties based on task sequence, impact, deadline, and required effort. This will also help you refine your project management skills.
  • Use tools like calendars, email management software, task lists, and/or project management software to help you manage time. Ask someone with technical hard skills to help you set up the best platform for your needs.
  • Keep your workspace tidy.
  • Label paper and digital files and documents.
  • Work with your team to set goals that align with the department or organization's broader objectives.
  • Delegate tasks based on team members’ technical skills and development needs.  

Being more organized will help you minimize stress, conserve energy, and enhance your team’s productivity.  

4. Foster Teamwork

Teamwork is more than providing occasional team building activities; it is a cooperative environment where individuals support each other, share knowledge, and work towards common goals. This type of professional life in today's job market attracts and retains great employees.  

To actively promote collaboration and teamwork within your own team and across departments, enact these leadership abilities:  

Assess your communication gaps based on team interactions  

We have addressed how to be an effective communicator, but how do you know if you are doing a good job? Assess these interpersonal skills with the following criteria.  

When you ARE communicating effectively:   

  • Trust is fostered within the organization.  
  • Employees feel wanted and engaged.  
  • Conflict is mitigated.  
  • Professional, personal, and relational goals are achieved.  
  • The overall bottom line increases.   

When you are NOT communicating effectively:   

  • Communications break down.  
  • Employees do not work as a team.  
  • Misunderstandings and conflict are common.
  • Employees are less engaged in their work.
  • Workers perform their jobs poorly.  

If you discover that your communication skills need improvement, consider taking online courses, reading books on effective communication, or reaching out to your Stratus human resource management expert for communication training.   

Empower and support your employees   

Great managers know their employees on both a personal and professional level. Here are several things you can do to help your employees feel acknowledged, supported, and empowered: 

  • Provide your team with the tools, resources, and autonomy they need to be successful. 
  • Be there to support your team when they encounter obstacles. Help them work through challenges.
  • Recognize employees on both a personal and work level. Celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, milestones, team successes, and admirable efforts towards a work goal. 
  • Encourage employees to take time off and recharge. They will return with renewed enthusiasm, higher productivity, and more innovative ideas than they had previously.  
  • Embrace diversity and create opportunities for diverse voices to be heard and recognized. This might include hosting multicultural activities, celebrating heritage months, recognizing notable holidays from different cultures, or having a monthly multicultural lunch where employees share food from their home country.  

5. Lead by Example  

Leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to build trust, credibility, and commitment to the organization's values. Your behavior sets the tone for the work culture, from your work ethic and professionalism to how you observe policies like the company dress code.  

Here are some specific areas where your example will set the expectation for how employees should respond.  

Handling challenges   

When you encounter challenges and setbacks, the way you respond is critical. Do you throw objects and scream in frustration, or do you remain calm, focused, and adaptable? Model the behavior you expect to see in your employees.  

Showing respect 

Avoid biased behaviors or discriminatory language and intervene when you witness disrespectful actions. If employees witness you intentionally ignoring or laughing at inappropriate behavior, it will be interpreted as acceptable behavior.  

Demonstrating accountability 

Take ownership of your responsibilities and actions. If you make a mistake, admit to where you went wrong and hold yourself accountable. When employees observe you recognizing your imperfections, they are less likely to blame others, which will help your team focus on finding solutions and improving rather than wasting time defending themselves.  

Stratus HR Can Help You Develop Your Managers  

When an employee is promoted to a manager position, they may easily be overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and requirements of their new role, particularly when they struggle with people skills. Stratus HR can help!  

Not only do we absorb the transactional requirements of human resources to help your team be more productive, but our certified HR experts are available to consult and train your new managers on employment laws, leadership skills, communication, performance reviews, accommodations, coaching, and so on. This will help you focus on developing your organizational culture, enhance your risk management efforts, meet your customer needs, and reach your desired outcomes with the team you have in place. 

Why struggle doing it on your own when Stratus is staffed with experts ready to help you be successful? Book a free consultation today and our team will contact you shortly. 

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