14 Examples of Soft Skills Every Leader Needs in 2021  (2024)

14 Examples of Soft Skills Every Leader Needs in 2021  (1)
As the world works to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders are working to realign their skillsets with the demands of a hybrid professional environment, highlighting newexamples of soft skillsthat aremore important than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the professional world forever—in turnbringing to light newexamples of soft skillsthat are pivotal to the success of business leaders.

After all, mandatory work-from-home orders created a jarring shift toward remote work. The effects of uncertainty and fear have taken a drastic toll on employee engagement and wellbeing.And as a result, leaders have been forced to adapt their approachesto keeping a strong, happy, and productive team.

In fact, research has shown that,as a result of global changes from the pandemic,soft skills are more important than ever atwork—it’seven beenpredicted that by 2030,two-thirdsof all jobs will be dependent on soft skills as more and more “technical” jobs are outsourced to artificial intelligence, machine learning,and robotics.

With that in mind, we reached out to our network of business leaders to get their insights on examples of soft skills that every leader needs in 2021 and beyond.

Here’s what they had to say.

Table Of Contents


  • Problem-Solving
  • Negotiation
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Technical Communication Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Adaptability
  • Delegation
  • Optimism
  • MotivationalSkills
  • Mentorship and Training
  • Respect and Gratitude
  • Understanding of Personalities
  • Stress Management
  • Comprehension


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Miklos Zoltan, CEO & Cybersecurity Researcher atPrivacy Affairs, believes that one of the mosthistoricallyimportant examples of soft skills for leaderswill remain forever: problem-solving.

“First and foremost, I believe that a successful leader is a problem solver,” says Miklos. “Whenteam membersare unable to solve a business problem on their own, they willturn to their leaders. Whilesome challengesmayappear to be unique, the truth is that there are few things underthe sunthat are truly new.So, most difficulties that a business leader is confronted withwill simply be a new iteration of a challenge they’ve already faced. That means their experience is invaluable and can be shared with their team.”

If you’d like to learn more about how to master these skills, check out the blog post we wrote onteam building problem solving activities.


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According toMarkus Albert, Managing Director atEatFirst, negotiation always has been and always will be one of the most vital examples of soft skills for leaders.

“Negotiation skills have always and continue to be one of the most important leadership skills,” says Markus.“Leaders need to be able to negotiateall kinds of things. This includesincreasing demands for flexibility from employeesandwork-from-home terms for employees who are either not ready or don’t want to return to the office,allwhile still keeping the company’s best interests in mind. This also extends to negotiatingsalaries for new remote employees as well as an increasingly broad range of benefits that people are looking for or expecting to continue in the post-pandemic era.”

He adds, “Negotiation is the most important skill, to my mind, becausebeinga good negotiator requires forethought as well as empathy—two qualities that serve leaders well in any workplace, virtual or in-person. Employers expect their leadership to be able to negotiate on behalf of the company with clients, to balance employee and company interests,and leaders must also negotiate on their own behalf to get their ideas and projects funded, approved,and focused on.”

If you’re interested in becoming a strong negotiator, you might like our training program,The Power of Negotiation, which can teach you to prepare for negotiations, keep your emotions in check, recognize how to influence others, and practice how to close a negotiation.

Emotional Intelligence

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According toMichael Robinson, Security Expert atCheapSSLSecurity, emotional intelligence has always been critical. But now, in the wake of especially difficult times, it’s more vital than ever.

“The ability to notice, assess, and respond to your own and others’ emotionsis referred to as emotional intelligence,” explains Michael. “This means you can thinkempathetically about the people around youand the interpersonalinteractions that format work.This is yet another soft talent that has gained significant prominence in2021. As we try to deal with the pandemic, we’re experiencing a lot ofstress, grief, and frustration. Having the ability to sense your coworkers’emotions and act with compassion iscritical in a variety of situations,from new work-from-home obstacles to missing loved ones or otherpandemicconcerns.”

For more on this subject, you might like our comprehensive resource ondeveloping emotional intelligence for leaders.

Technical Communication Skills

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As the way we work has evolved, so too has the way we need to communicate, saysCarterSeuthe, CEO atCredit Summit.

“This skillsits on the border between soft skills andtechnical skills,” says Carter.“Technical communication skillsare essential in today’sworkenvironment. This requires you to have not only goodverbal presentationskillsbutalso afamiliarity with the features and quirks of your chosen meetingappand a good sense of timing to compensate for lag. It’s a wholedifferent animal compared to in-personpresentations. There are differentfeedback cues to look for from the audience, and your voice andslides haveto do much more to get your point across.”

We completely agree:effective communication in the workplacecan help your team produce higher-quality work, faster, while being happier in their role.

Active Listening

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Rather than simply waiting for their turn to speak,Tony Kelly, Founder & CEO atCameraGroove, touts active listening as one of the best examples of soft skills leaders will need in 2021 and beyond.

“I believe that one of the most important skills every leader shouldhaveis the ability to actively listen,” explains Tony. “This meansfocusing entirely on the other person,attempting to comprehend not only the wordsbut also the emotion behindthem, appropriately reacting, and then remembering what wassaid. Thistalent, which was already difficult for some, became considerably moredifficult thisyear as the entire employee-manager interactionwentvirtual.To begin with, talking via computers or digital devices necessitates aconscious effort to eliminate distractions so that both parties can remainfocused on the conversation at hand. After all, you wouldn’t bemulti-tasking between urgent email notifications, social media alerts, andeverything else that maypotentially capture your attention in a real-lifeone-on-one conversation with your staff. Youwould pay your staff therespect they are due.”

He adds, “Furthermore, managers must be considerably more aware of nonverbal cluessuch asbody language and voice tone while communicating in a digitalcontext. When all you see onthe screen in front of you is a floatinghead, it’s easy to overlook this. But most significantly,activelistening entails being available when your team requires assistance. You’re not required to know all of the answers. All you have to do is providea secure and open environment foryour employees to express themselves,including venting about their pandemic-related frustrations. Listening tothem activelycan help you understand how you can support theirsuccess while also assisting them in overcoming any obstacles they may have.”


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If there’s one example of a soft skill that almost everyone in the world has had to embody in the last year, it’s adaptability. And this, according toTrevor Larson, CEO ofNectar, is going to continue to be critical.

“Adaptability tends to be a function of a leader’s open-mindedness,” says Trevor. “It’sa trait that’s often measured usingpersonality assessments, and it’s as crucial now as it ever has been thanks to the tremendous flux that characterizes most industries, especially with respect to digitization and automation. If you’re adaptable as a leader, you’re better able to thrive in changing workenvironments, incorporate new tools and new ways of organizing and interacting with employees, and are better equipped psychologically to adjust your communication style for different kinds of people.”

He continues, “All of these abilities constitute adaptability, a skill that should be viewed as both an important area for personal growth by current leaders and as part of foundational hiring criteria for companies looking to bring on and promote leaders.


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ForNicole Graham, Lifestyle/Relationship Coach atWomenio, delegation is the most prime example ofasoft skill needed by leaders in all industries.

“One of the most important corporate soft skills leaders may have is delegation,” explains Nicole. “While leaders are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility, they must take care not to get overworked, burnt out, or spend insufficient timeon each project. Delegating responsibilities to staff allows a leaderto devote more time and focus to a smaller number of initiatives, resulting in better, more considered outcomes. Furthermore, delegating responsibilities throughout the company shows employees that their supervisor trusts them, which boosts employee morale and motivation.”


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If you don’t think optimism is a skill, think again, saysDeidre Alves, M. Ed., Client Leadership Officer atExuLAB.

“What people may not realize is that this soft skill is perhaps the most important one,” shares Deidre.“This isespeciallytruewhen climbing out of adversity. It’s so powerful because optimism has the quality ofpropulsion:the exact ingredient and positive energy that’s required to lift people up and move forward,even in thedirestcirc*mstances. Leaders who lead with optimism create a positive,hopeful vision of a happy future that you can actually feel and,as a result,create.”


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An example of a soft skill that shares many of the same outcomes as optimism is motivation skills, according toRavi Parikh, CEO atRoverPass.

“Motivational abilities are possibly thenumber oneskill for leaders to have in2021,” says Ravi.“COVID’s impact on businesses and individuals was earth-shattering,and many people are stillstruggling to feel safe and get back to a newnormal. Leaders who can motivate employees andmake them feel inspired inthese times will be the ones who succeed. A lot of professionals acrossindustries are questioning the direction of their careers from here on out,so it is vital thatleaders makesure they know that their company is theright fit for their needs. Soft skills liketeam building,encouragement,andgoal settingalso fit into this category.

Mentorship and Training

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Now more than ever,Jennifer Harder, Founder and CEO atJennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers, believes that a leader’s ability tomentor and traintheir staff is critical.

“Employeeswill always benefit from having a growth mentality, even if they havecertain skill sets that qualify them for their professions,” says Jennifer.“Employees canlearn new skills, find moreeffective methods, or learn how to use newtechnologies by attending training sessions. Leadersmay help their staffovercome obstacles or inspire positive changes in the workplace by spendingtime and resources in training and development.”

She adds, “Although a CEO cannotpersonally mentor everyemployee, a mentorship program—in which seniorstaff members guide and check in with youngstaff members on a regularbasis—can assist a company in a variety of ways. Experiencedemployees canassist fresher employees with large and little tasks, such as learning howto use certain software or sharing critical knowledge about long-termclientele. Mentors can also assist inthe creation of an environment thatvalues employee relationships.”

Respect and Gratitude

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While respect and gratitude have always been important for leaders to demonstrate,Kelli Lane, Chief Marketing Officer atGenexa, believes these are examples of soft skills that will be even more vital in a post-pandemic professional world.

“Show respect and gratitude to your employees or subordinates,” says Kelli.“Empower them by promoting a culture of self-starters and decision-makers. Trust employees to make decisions and provide opportunities for employees to take on leadership roles. Reward and encourage employees that showcase initiative. Offer training opportunities to motivate employees to advance their skills.Incorporate weekly check-ins between managers and employees. Send out monthly surveys togather anonymous feedback from staff on company culture, work-life balance, and overall attitudetowards work. Listen and incorporate positive changes based on the feedback received.”

If you’re looking for more inspiration on how to show appreciation for your team, we wrote an article onemployee of the month ideasthat you might find helpful.

Understanding of Personalities

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ForHarriet Chan, Co-Founder ofCocoFinder, a keen understanding of personalities—both their own personality and those of their team members—is a critical soft skill for leaders.

“Understandingpersonalitiesand attitudesare among the essential soft skills leaders need to portray during challenging times,” explains Harriet.“By being aware of their own personality and that of their employees, as well as how those personalities impact professional behavior, leaders will be better equipped to deal with challenging times.”

Unsure of what types of personality tests might be helpful? Here are three you can consider:

  • StrengthsFinder:TheStrengthsFinderassessmenthelps identify the strengths of your individual team members and gain actionable insight into how to leverage those strengths strategically to build strong teams.
  • Myers-Briggs:Myers-Briggstestscan help employeesand leadersidentify work environments where they thrive and tasks at which they excel, as well as those that drain them of their energy.
  • DiSC:Your team’sDiSCassessments can help identify distinct personal workstyles amongst colleagues and enhance collaboration and communication by providing insight into how different workstyles work best together.

Stress Management

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Even during the best of times, stress can be a challenge for both leaders and their team members. That’s whyDeborah Sweeney, CEO ofMyCorporation.com, believes stress management is especially critical during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the most important soft skills leaders should possess in 2021, and beyond, is stress management,” explains Deborah.“Now more than ever, it’s important to listen to your body and its needs. Do not overwork yourself or stress yourself to your breaking point. Take the time to sleep on making major decisions andtocatch up on sleep in general. Eat healthy meals and hydrate by drinking a lot of water.And know when to unplug.”

She adds, “Focus on activities that can allow you to recharge after unplugging, such as meditating, spending time with friends or family, and journaling to reflect on your emotions or momentsthroughout the day. Managing stress and managing it well allows you to be the best leader you can be for the team, company, and yourself.”

In the post-pandemic professional world, these examples of soft skills needed by leaders can help create stronger bonds between colleagues, create happier and more engaged employees, and ultimately support better business outcomes.

What are some examples of soft skills that you think leaders should have? If we missed one, let us know in the comments section below.


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Dima Suponau, CEO at 1-800 Live Person, is a strong champion of “comprehension” as a soft-skill for leaders. Here’s what Dima has to say:

“Comprehension is a soft skill that is gaining popularity during the last decade. We all remember that a few years ago, being tough was considered to be a formula for success, but now people seek someone who will understand their personal values, and their weaknesses and, instead of making them feel worse because of them, leaders will help employees to overcome their flaws and become better.

Moreover, leaders with comprehension in their blood understand that sick employees will not work efficiently and forcing them to work is pointless. The same with mothers who have sick children at home. A similar situation is when an employee struggles with some serious problems, either personal or work-related. Great leaders should ensure their prospects that they are always there to listen and help solve every problem.

Leaders who understand their employees will achieve great levels of loyalty among their workers, so this skill is worth developing if you are a leader.”

Learn MoreTraining and Development Programs to Help Build Soft Skills in Leaders

For more information about howtraining and development programs can help instill soft skills in your leaders, reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.

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14 Examples of Soft Skills Every Leader Needs in 2021  (2024)
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