“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” — Theodore Roosevelt
In the business world, interpersonal skills are often referred to as “soft skills or people skills.” Employers usually seek to hire individuals who can handle the technical demands of the job (hard skills), and interact well with others (soft skills).
Having good interpersonal skills is essential for being an effective leader. Let’s take a look at three key components of interpersonal skills that are required for leadership.
Communication is a cyclical process that involves the exchange of information between a sender and a receiver. Good communication skills form the foundation of good interpersonal skills. To be effective, leaders need to master the ability to disseminate information clearly to others in written, verbal and other non-verbal forms. In today’s fast-paced work environment, a leader typically on requests, delivers and receives information through written means of communication. While written communication is a convenient and fast way to get the information you need, there can be many pitfalls associated with this form of communication, as much of the information is left up to the interpretation of the receiver. Whether the leader is on the giving or receiving end of the written communication, it is essential that written communications be vetted carefully.
When it comes to verbal and nonverbal communication, paying attention to body language is just as important as how you verbalize information. Eye contact, facial expression and body posture oftentimes reveal more than the spoken language when interacting with others.
Effective communication also includes the ability to listen and remain open to ideas. Listening involves making a conscious effort to gather and assess information in an unbiased manner. The effort that the leader puts into listening will be revealed in the quality of the responses that are given. People want to be heard and feel valued; therefore, the absence of effective listening may ultimately affect productivity. Poor listening habits can negatively impact the morale of the team; however, listening effectively while remaining closed minded can also yield negative results. Being open to ideas goes hand-in-hand with listening effectively. To lead effectively, leaders must be willing and able to listen to the recommendations of others.
Problems are a part of life and the scope of a problem can challenge a leader’s effectiveness. As a leader, you will often find that you don’t have all the answers, but you are still responsible for solving the problem. Problems can be a source of stress, but effective leaders know how to leverage the talents on his or her team and find creative ways to solve them.
Be resourceful and know where and how to find solutions—don’t be afraid to get help from others. Communicate your needs and leverage the collective knowledge of others (such as your team). Then, with an open mind, engage them in critical thinking as you carefully examine each option. The art of thinking critically involves questioning the status quo and long held assumptions. Work in a collaborative manner with others to devise a logical or practical strategy to solve the problem. Leaders who engage in critical thinking get things done and are highly regarded.
Confidence can be described as being self-assured. According to research, the more competent a person is, the more confident he or she tends to be towards serving in a role or performing a task. This competence not only gives a person confidence, but provides expert power—or the ability to influence others with his or her skills, knowledge, and experience. Leaders who demonstrate that they know what they’re talking about—and what they’re doing—gain the respect and following of others.
Leaders who are confident, possess expert power and effective, are not aggressive, overbearing or handle situations passively. Confident leaders maintain their effectiveness by expressing their thoughts and beliefs in an open, honest way, while respecting the thoughts and beliefs of others. And they are not afraid to admit mistakes and apologize when they are wrong.
These are just three components of interpersonal skills that are necessary to lead effectively. Other components include, collaboration, managing emotions, flexibility, a positive attitude and the ability to receive constructive feedback.