Soft skills for managers

January 08, 2023  •  Reading Time: 10 min.

Do managers need to be a team player?

The ideal leader is competent and knows how to inspire employees in such a way that common goals are successfully achieved.

Soft skills are extremely important for managers.

Technical skills and specialist knowledge (hard skills) only help up to a certain point. The further development of soft skills (social skills) helps managers to expand their leadership competencies and grow personally.

However, developing each skill requires a certain amount of time and practice.

Pleasant female boss standing next to her colleague

After all, leading other people is not always easy for managers and requires certain soft skills to achieve the desired goals. So let’s take a look at the different soft skills for managers. We’ll also give you some tips for each competency so you can develop your leadership skills.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are your personal abilities, character traits, behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics that go beyond the technical skills and qualities you have learned.

Soft skills are therefore a collective term that summarizes a wide range of abilities and characteristics.

Soft skills can be roughly divided into three areas:

  • Social skills

This includes the ability to communicate and cooperate with other people, to persuade and win them over, and to shape interactions successfully.

  • Personal competence

This involves skills that relate to dealing with oneself: self-awareness, self-reflection or self-criticism, for example. Personal competencies also have an impact on social and methodological competencies.

  • Methodological competence

These skills help to solve tasks and problems. Self-discipline and stress resistance fall into this category. Methodological competencies can be learned particularly well, for example, speaking freely in front of many people.

Why do managers need to have soft skills?

Every employee knows the stories of difficult superiors and hot-tempered bosses. It is therefore no longer enough just to be able to demonstrate hard skills and experience as a manager. A good leadership style is an essential component of one’s own leadership competence. Soft skills are too often neglected when dealing with a team and are the basis for some employees’ horror stories.

In a professional context, soft skills describe a person’s social abilities. These missing or non-existent skills are particularly often associated with managers. Digital leadership, intercultural competence, a sense of responsibility, critical thinking and many other points make up leadership skills. However, the four most important elements are the leader’s ability to work in a team, empathy, communication skills and willingness to learn.

Group of marketing experts

What are the 4 essential soft skills for a leader?

There are 4 key leadership skills and soft skills managers need to be able to demonstrate in order to excel in their leadership role in an organization:

1. Ability to work in a team

It sounds like an empty phrase, but it’s much more than that: If you want to be a good manager, you have to be a team person. After all, business leaders are not only responsible for their own actions, but also for those of their employees.

2. Empathy

People skills: Emotional intelligence, which encompasses sensitivity and empathy, is a soft skill that all modern leaders need to possess.

3. Communication skills

Communication skills pave the way to the top. There is hardly anyone who takes a seat in the executive chair without good communication skills.

4. Willingness to learn – and change

Good managers are adaptable and flexible. They are ready for change and plan for it. They see disruption as an exciting challenge rather than a burden.

What are the 8 different soft skills required by a manager?

As a manager, you need to effectively manage your team not only in terms of time management skills, problem solving, critical thinking or project management, but also increase employee satisfaction and employee morale by bringing out the best qualities of each team member.

It is your responsibility to shape the work environment in a way that enhances employee performance in your organization. Executives can achieve this by leveraging their individual personality traits and turning them into soft skills that benefit your employees:

1. Self-awareness

Self-awareness is one of the most important skills to work on first. In fact, without this skill, you will have a hard time developing the other skills on our list. After all, how can you improve if you don’t know where to start?

Self-awareness is at the core of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness leads to self-regulation and empathy, and these are key skills for positively influencing those around you. It will be easier for you to make decisions and you will have more self-confidence. In addition, better self-awareness will help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Do mindfulness exercises regularly because they are closely related to self-awareness. Write things down to optimize your habits. Taking the time to write things down will also improve your self-awareness.

2. Trustworthiness

People immediately ask themselves two questions when they meet you:

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Can I respect this person?

People often think that being respected is the most important thing in a professional setting. But in fact, it is more important to be seen as trustworthy. People want to know if they can trust you. After all, even if you’re the smartest person in the room, people won’t respect you if they can’t trust you.

To gain the trust of others, you need to perform up front. Show your team that you trust them by giving them freedom and autonomy. Open up and share something personal about yourself. This way, others will get to know and trust you better. Also, spend more time with your employees to get to know each other better.

3. Empathy

Empathy is a very important soft skill to acquire – whether you’re a leader or not. Ultimately, your employees’ engagement depends on how you treat them. To treat your team with appreciation and respect, you need to understand them. Studies show that supervisors who show more empathy are seen as the better bosses.

There’s a saying that goes, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we talk.” Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Try to imagine what your team members are going through. Take time to develop this soft skill.

4. Proper delegation

This is a skill that is a bit more difficult to learn, as many people are uncomfortable with giving up control. However, it is an important skill to gain recognition and trust within the team. As a leader, you must also learn to relinquish responsibility. People need autonomy to motivate themselves in the workplace and to feel truly needed. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to delegate tasks and then take back responsibility in the middle of a project. This behavior can quickly destroy your employees’ motivation.

Learn to let go. Be aware that you are not always right and that you don’t always have all the answers. As Steve Jobs said, “There’s no point in hiring smart people and telling them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” If you want your employees to excel, you have to let them solve problems themselves from start to finish.

5. Giving feedback

Giving feedback is not only one of the most important core activities of a manager, but also one that is often severely neglected. Depending on their personality, people can react very differently to feedback, so supervisors should handle this topic carefully and sensitively. The most important points to keep in mind when giving feedback are:

  • Relate the feedback to the behavior, not the person.
  • Be specific.
  • Give feedback in real time.
  • Practice makes perfect. (The more feedback you give, the better you will get at it.)
  • Be open and honest.
  • Use structured one-on-one meetings to give feedback.

6. Receiving feedback

Even more important than giving feedback is receiving feedback. Respond to negative (constructive) feedback in a friendly manner and think about the feedback. After all, it provides you with an excellent opportunity to continually develop and improve.

  • One question you should ask yourself: Do your team members give you feedback regularly?
  • If not, find out why. Are they uncomfortable with it? Are they encouraged by you to give you feedback?
  • Tell each team member that you want to get feedback from him/her.
  • Listen rather than talk. Don’t give in to your first reaction to defend yourself. Just listen and try to understand.
  • Ask for more details, such as: “Just to be sure: When I did x, did you feel y?”

7. Communication

Managers need to have good communication abilities. Just think of all the different scenarios in which a supervisor needs to communicate effectively:

  • To share their vision with employees
  • To motivate the team
  • To deliver bad news
  • To negotiate with investors

To do this, train your body language. It’s incredible how much your body language affects your communication. Also, speak clearly, briefly and concisely. If possible, try to pick up on your listener’s thoughts. Always watch your tone of voice and make sure you speak in a calm and friendly manner.

8. Be predictable

A Michigan State University study concluded that a boss who is unpredictable is perceived by many workers as very demanding and stressful. In the study, 100 employees from various companies filled out surveys about their perceptions of fairness. Employees who had an unpredictable supervisor were more stressed, dissatisfied and emotionally exhausted at work than anyone else.

Stand by your word. Communicate with your team and make sure they are always in the loop.

Successful employee smiles at the camera

Soft skills make a great leader: Advantages of soft skills as a manager

Here are some examples of the benefits managers can experience by using soft skills in the workplace:

  • Soft skills help managers build positive relationships with their employees. This in turn leads managers to build good working relationships with their employees, which can also have an impact on employee satisfaction, feelings of appreciation and morale.
  • When managers have good soft skills, it helps them communicate ideas between upper management and employees in their department. This ensures that everyone is working toward the same goal set by management and that employees have the ability to get answers to their questions about a new policy or initiative when needed.
  • In leadership positions, professionals must be able to take disciplinary action when necessary to uphold the values, work activities and culture of their employer. This means they must be able to address performance issues and other conflicts with employees. In this way, the leader ensures that employees receive the resources they need to be successful in their roles.
  • When a manager has good soft skills, they can influence the way their employees interact and work together to achieve departmental goals.

Leadership qualities and soft skills: Knowing how to deal with people

It’s all about generating “hard” numbers with “soft” competencies.

There are countless soft skills and qualities that make a good leader. These are responsible for a smooth, cooperative and motivating collaboration and determine the working atmosphere.

It has a serious impact on productivity whether employees are disinterested, indifferent, frustrated and offer active or passive resistance, or whether they are committed, take responsibility, show team spirit and continuously improve their performance.

This difference is the most important reason why some companies grow well and fulfill their social obligations, while others struggle on the brink of insolvency and also put pressure on their employees.

Managers have the greatest influence on employee behavior.

That’s why it’s so important that they have the appropriate soft skills to communicate and collaborate effectively to create a win-win for the company. This means that soft skills for managers are a top priority in their day-to-day work.

Businessmen meeting


What are the most important soft skills in employee management?

– Communication
– Teamwork
– Decision-making
– Problem-solving
– Empowerment
– Empathy

What strengths should a manager have?

– Motivate rather than manage
– Encourage honesty
– Show appreciation
– Be reliable
– Plan ahead
– Improve continuously

What are the most important hard skills of a manager?

– Plan Training measures
– Set clear Goals
– Project Management

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