Top 5 Soft Skills for Leaders of the Future

June 27, 2022

85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist today

The world is clearly changing, with emerging technologies and industries spinning up new jobs at a rapid rate. Things like artificial intelligence, biotech, and fintech are leading to both new job creation and the obsoletion of jobs that have been around for decades.

Is this cause for concern? I don’t believe so. Instead, it is a welcome reminder that as the world changes, we must change with it. Keeping your skills up-to-date and relevant can feel challenging, but the best organizations are actively reskilling their workforce to prepare their talent for the future.

And don’t think this just applies to technical skills. Soft skills, for leaders and employees, are also rapidly changing – and just as important to your future success. 

How to Prepare Your Emerging Leaders

As a current leader, you’re most likely focused on the near future and goals for your organization. Part of a healthy, successful leadership plan includes nurturing, preparing, and teaching soon-to-be leaders within your team. 

While technical skills will continue to change and evolve, you can best prepare your younger talent through intentional development of the crucial soft skills for leaders of the future.

These soft skills and leadership competencies will help mold upcoming talent into resilient, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent leaders – prepared to take your organization successfully into the next decade, and beyond. 

Let’s look at the top five soft skills you should be actively helping your emerging leaders develop to be successful in tomorrow’s job market and world. 

Top 5 Soft Skills for Leaders of the Future

  • Self-Awareness
  • Communication
  • Ability to Give and Receive Effective Feedback
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to Connect

This is where you want to focus when preparing your upcoming leaders. Each of these soft skills will set your leaders apart – helping them create a successful culture today and into 2030.

Let’s now look at each of these competencies in more detail to see how we can best implement them in our own leadership practices and cultivate them in your young talent.

Self-Awareness

“If you’re at your best, the company is going to get the best results.” 

I routinely share some version of this statement with my clients. True self-awareness – how you learn and work on your own – is essential to fully understanding how you show up in the workplace and in daily life. 

Not sure how to improve your own self-awareness? Start by reviewing the feedback you have received from previous managers, in past performance reviews, or in any personality style assessments you have taken. Create an inventory of the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities you see emerging. 

Once you’ve completed this inventory, add to it, the unique skills you bring to the table, the tasks you specifically enjoy, and the things you’re best at. This could range from being certified in Google Analytics to being bilingual – embrace your specific skills and interests. Once you’ve generated a list, look over it to see where you could potentially use those skills to improve your leadership, benefit your team, or add value to your organization.

Communication – One of the soft skills for leaders that build trust and strong relationships

You must communicate clearly and effectively to be a successful leader. 

Communication is a two-way process – it’s not just you speaking to others, it’s also you taking the time to listen and connect. When something isn’t working, good communicators speak up. When they need help, good communicators ask for it. And when it comes to strong business relationships and team development, good communicators are at the top.

Networking – the art of building those business relationships and connections – helps you achieve your goals more quickly. Personal connections also make your work more fulfilling, leading to a happier life inside and outside of work. You never know who you will meet, or how those connections will influence your future!

Giving and receiving effective feedback

Feedback – both good and hard to hear – is essential for an effective workplace.

Intentional leaders are skilled at delivering feedback (yes, even when it’s hard) and are equally as skilled at receiving feedback from others. Constructive criticism is often necessary, especially when something important is missed or negative behaviors impact the team. But don’t forget, it’s also just as important to let team members know when they are excelling. 

Great leaders don’t shy away from difficult conversations – they lead those interactions with humility, intention, and compassion. 

Feedback helps everyone (including the leaders improve and do their best!

Adaptability

We know the workplace is constantly changing, so the ability to adapt to new expectations and goals is key to staying at the top of your game. Alongside that adaptability, your emerging leaders will do well to stay nimble and flexible – ready to change directions or try something new, sometimes at a moment’s notice. 

This often looks like being deep in one project and having a new task or responsibility dropped on your plate. Instead of panicking or freezing – this is the perfect opportunity to pick it up and run with it. You can handle more than one thing at a time, and don’t forget to check-in and clarify what’s the most important if you feel like you have too many competing priorities. 

Being able to take a deep breath and embrace a “go with the flow” mindset is a huge asset for leaders. 

Ability to connect

One soft skill for leaders of the future looks like knowing (and being) yourself! Good leaders are compassionate and care about their team’s success – both at work and in life. When you are in touch with your own needs and show up authentically, you’re more likely to encourage your employees to do the same. 

One key component of being a connected leader is practicing active listening. This helps your team members feel heard and acknowledged, and it also builds more comfortable stronger relationships. Unsurprisingly, the more connected you are as a leader, the better listener (and communicator!) you will be. 

Ready to develop these soft skills for leaders on your own team?

Early career professionals and emerging leader candidates will shape the future landscape of most organizations over the next 5-10 years. 

One of the best things you can do for your organization is to intentionally and effectively prepare your people for the rapidly changing future workplace. 

If you are interested in implementing initiatives that prepare high-potential employees to lead, contact me to learn more about my Emerging Leadership Development Program.

Tricia Manning © 2022 All Rights Reserved.
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