17 Essential Soft Skills for Effective Leadership

Pair technical expertise with exceptional soft skills for stand-out leadership.

By Manuela Bárcenas  •   May 28, 2024  •   8 min read

As important as technical skills are, they’re not the only qualities that make someone an excellent leader. Soft skills like conflict resolution and empathy empower executives to navigate challenges, inspire teams, and drive organizational success.

Read on to discover the soft skills every leader should develop to effectively guide their team.

Why are soft skills important for leadership?

Soft skills (or interpersonal skills) are core leadership competencies required to communicate and collaborate well with others—they’re essential skills to being a productive leader. A 2024 report from Wiley backs this up, with 63% of those who received soft skills training reporting a positive impact on their job performance.

Executives also lead by example, demonstrating how to resolve conflicts and accommodate various communication and learning styles. They must hone essential soft skills to nurture a team that collaborates well.

Leaders with excellent interpersonal skills might even improve retention rates. Listening and adapting quickly to challenges helps you address employee concerns, making them more likely to stay loyal to your organization.

17 soft skills for improved leadership

Hone these 17 essential E-suite skills to set expectations, help employees reach their goals, and drive organizational success.


In 2024, LinkedIn analyzed data from its billion-plus members and found that effective communication was the most in-demand soft skill. And it’s more crucial than ever with the increase in remote work and distributed teams. Today, these teams exchange information across various channels, and working together requires a diverse toolkit. Leaders must optimize communication resources for productive meetings and reliable collaboration.

Solutions like Fellow can help guide and distill meetings for more dynamic discussions. For instance, Fellow’s monthly leadership meeting agenda template is fully customizable and recommends talking points to steer the conversation in the right direction.

2Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand others’ emotions and manage your own. 

Good leaders don’t fly off the handle and yell at staff members when things go wrong, nor do they burst into tears after a setback. They modulate their emotions and are attentive to others’ feelings, which lets them interact appropriately so everyone feels heard and respected. 

Hone your emotional intelligence skills by practicing:

  • Self-awareness: Be cognizant of your emotions, triggers, and reactions. Consider journaling daily to reflect on how your leadership style affects others.
  • Active listening: Ask clarifying questions to increase your understanding and use receptive body language, like nodding, to show you’re listening.


Adaptability, or a willingness to pivot strategies and embrace new ideas, is one of the top four skills companies look for when hiring, according to Monster’s 2021 “The Future of Work” report.

Things don’t always go as planned, and processes evolve as new technologies develop. Remain flexible to unexpected changes by keeping an open mind and embracing a growth mindset. You might regularly invite fellow industry leaders to a “How can we do better?” brainstorming session. And you could routinely audit standard processes to identify opportunities for innovation.


Empathy means understanding and relating to others’ feelings, which strengthens coworker relationships, minimizes misunderstandings, and enhances teamwork.

To deepen your capacity to empathize, engage in perspective-taking exercises during team interactions. Before reacting or making important decisions, consider how each team member might perceive the situation based on their experiences and background. You might also ask open-ended questions privately to further understand their perspective.


Effective decision-making involves doing your research—but knowing when to stop. You must collaborate with others to thoroughly understand the choice at hand (and avoid moving forward influenced by personal biases). But you must also set a time restraint for deliberation to prevent decision fatigue.

Consider creating a decision-making process the management team should use to showcase how important this skill is. This is also an excellent opportunity to optimize this process, finding inefficient communication methods and areas where you could incorporate more quantitative and qualitative data analysis.


Leaders must identify an issue’s roots (not just its symptoms) and review multiple solutions. Then, they need to take charge and commit to a course of action that adequately addresses the problem, being transparent throughout this process about why they’ve made a certain choice. 

Like with decision-making, you might define a set procedure when issues arise. Maybe you ask employees to present problems in concise formats (“problem,” “solutions,” “potential roadblocks to solutions”). If needed, they can link to documents that include more information.


Collaboration is another in-demand soft skill when hiring, according to Monster’s 2021 report. Leaders must work well with others to achieve shared objectives—and they also need to encourage this across their team.

Fellow’s collaborative meeting agendas and centralized action item lists are valuable tools for facilitating teamwork. These resources enable every person to contribute to the discussion and better understand how their responsibilities fit into the equation.


Creativity bolsters nearly every other leadership soft skill—from delegation to decision-making. As hiccups occur and markets shift, think outside the box to offer unconventional and timely solutions. 

Regularly expose yourself to new perspectives through reading, attending workshops, and networking with individuals from different backgrounds. Seek novel experiences (maybe traveling somewhere new or attending a competitor’s webinar) that challenge your way of thinking. Get uncomfortable—it’ll pay off in dividends.

9Conflict resolution

Workplace conflicts are inevitable, and how you handle them makes all the difference. Proactive listening, acting as a calming agent, and working to find consensus turn conflicts into opportunities for team bonding and innovative problem-solving.

10Leadership presence

Leadership (or executive) presence means demonstrating your confidence and competence. This assures your team and external parties that they can trust your capabilities. And since you’re a role model for your employees, you can foster the same confidence in them.

To harness and showcase this presence, develop strong verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Speak clearly and with conviction, maintain eye contact, and use confident body language like a hip-width stance and open arms. And demonstrate integrity and consistency in your actions, always aligning your behavior with your values and expectations from others.

11Time management

Efficiently managing your time (and others’) is a must-have leadership skill. People will always need your time, so you must be strategic about how you spend it to avoid burnout and incomplete tasks. And the same goes for your direct reports. Understanding what they can get done in a day without feeling overwhelmed means you can fairly distribute tasks. 

While tactics like time blocking and time tracking help, this is a great skill to delegate to an AI companion. Fellow lets you make the most of your limited hours by optimizing your meetings, streamlining collaboration, and centralizing action items within its intuitive software program.


Productive leaders are excellent delegators. They identify who has the required talents and bandwidth for certain tasks, then allocate work accordingly. And they know how to quickly pivot responsibilities as capacities change. 

Avoid micromanaging your team—trust that they have the skills to contribute great work. And consider asking managers to regularly check in with employees about the work they enjoy doing so that, when possible, leaders can respect these preferences.


When you commit to personal and team success, motivation feels less like a skill to hone and more like an innate driving force. Stay motivated by focusing on the company’s “why” and the purpose derived from encouraging your team.

Another excellent way to encourage motivation (in yourself and others) is by breaking daunting tasks into manageable steps. Ticking smaller items off the to-do list builds momentum, and you won’t feel as overwhelmed by the work ahead.


Living by noble moral principles and striving to do the right thing shows the kind of integrity leaders need. Develop a set of unwavering core values that define your leadership style and let those pillars guide every decision. You might work with other team leaders to decide on and share these values company-wide, instilling a sense of probity throughout the entire group.


Professional networking advances your career, but it also opens up opportunities to learn from others as you develop your soft skills. Listen to fellow industry leaders, noting what made them successful and traits you admire. Be humble and recognize that you’ll never have it all figured out—networking is about harnessing that growth mindset mentioned earlier.


As a leader, you’ll often provide feedback to your team. For feedback cycles to be effective, share helpful, informative details about how people are excelling and where they can improve. Tactfully communicating input is also essential. You don’t want to offend your team, but you must also ensure your messages are well-understood.


Openly sharing information with staff ensures everyone has the knowledge to make smart, data-driven decisions. It also fosters a sense of responsibility since employees understand what they’re working toward and why. You’re bringing them into the decision-making process—this means they’ll feel more accountable for the outcome. 

Fellow’s collaborative notes tool is all about team transparency. It lets you share meeting agendas, add team members to notes series, and invite guest users to view documents. And the Fellow AI Meeting Copilot records, transcribes, and summarizes meetings, making these notes accessible to all.

Great leaders use Fellow

Soft skills come from within, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sharpen them. Fellow lets you seamlessly integrate soft skills into your leadership practice. 

Fellow is an intuitive meeting management platform that offers all the tools you need to improve your communication, time management, and problem-solving skills. Contribute more meaningfully in calls while the AI Meeting Copilot transcribes notes for you, better use your time with Fellows’ Meeting Cost Calculator, and collaborate with fellow leaders to solve complex issues in your Fellow hub.

Try Fellow today and transform your leadership style to achieve next-level results.

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