Leadership Development: Why Soft Skills
Are Vital for Positive Mental Health
To truly thrive as a business leader, you’ll not only need a repertoire of technical, hands-on skills that distinguish you as a great fit for your company’s sector, but also a strong set of soft skills that make you a master of collaboration.
Sometimes called “people skills” or “interpersonal skills”, soft skills are essential to successful negotiation, boosting morale, and maintaining effective working relationships, whether you’re leading a small team or a multinational corporation.
Though most leaders are aware of how soft skills make you more effective at your job, what isn’t so talked-about is the positive effect that they can have on your personal wellbeing. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the key soft skills for effective leadership, and how they're vital for positive mental health.
In the post-covid workforce, with its unprecedented reliance on remote working and technology, good communication is more important than ever for leaders.
With dependable communication skills, both written and verbal, you’ll be able to solve problems more effectively, avoid mishaps from vague briefings, and form stronger working relationships that will improve employee retention. It will also allow you to create open channels of two-way communication, helping you keep tabs on how your team is doing, and make incremental changes that will improve the collective mental health of your workplace.
By using effective communication skills to prevent problems as they arise, and provide a better sense of clarity and direction when you’re collaborating on a project with colleagues, you’ll create a working environment that’s more conducive to close working relationships and better engagement from staff. This, in turn, will help to mitigate many of the stressors that lead to burnout and other mental health issues.
As a leader, your staff look to you to evaluate situations, identify issues, and make final decisions based on various sets of evidence and points of view.
Though these pressures and expectations make critical thinking essential simply to perform in your capacity as a manager, critical thinking can be another effective tool for managing stress and improving your mental health at work.
One of the most commonly cited causes of workplace stress in patients at executive rehabs is being overworked and the lack of a work-life balance. Though this can be caused by mismanagement originating at a more senior level, it’s important to remember that, as a business leader, you’re in a position to change the systems that leave you and your workers feeling burnt out.
By honing your critical thinking skills and looking at established systems and practices with a critical eye, you’ll find it easier to explore alternative, more efficient ways of tackling your tasks, and help to alleviate some of the excess demands that cause stress and burnout in your team.
Empathy is one of the most important qualities a person can have to maintain good mental health, whether inside or outside the office.
It’s also a particularly important soft skill to have for business leaders, as the way you conduct yourself at work can have a profound effect on the mood of those around you, and the kind of emotional environment your workplace becomes now and in the future.
If you develop your empathy and emotional intelligence, it will become easier to pick up on signs that an employee under your management is working themselves too hard, or showing signs of anxiety, depression, and burnout.
When you’re able to pick up on these signs early, you can instigate important conversations with your employees regarding their sources of stress and how you can remedy them, helping you create plans that will lead to an all-around happier and healthier workplace.
You may be reading this because you’ve only recently become a manager, and you’re having some trouble making the shift from working to leading.
This is often one of the hardest psychological shifts people can make in the course of their career, and while your peers and bosses will admire a willingness to get stuck in and execute assignments yourself, you’ll also have to learn to delegate effectively both to be an effective worker, and to protect the mental wellbeing of your team.
Being able to quickly analyse and understand tasks, then delegate them to the ideal team member based on their strengths and weaknesses, can go a long way towards improving how you and your colleagues feel when they’re at work.
Effective delegation will ensure that the people who report to you feel appreciated for their unique contributions to projects, demonstrate that you trust your team to deliver, and mitigate the inefficiencies that can make people feel stressed and snowed-under.
Aside from these advantages, the most obvious benefit of delegation is that it will free up your own workload, thereby reducing your personal stress and creating time for more challenging and fulfilling tasks.
Any leader, first and foremost, should be a good problem solver. The people you manage will look to you to help them solve problems they come across, and those further up the hierarchy will depend on you to hedge and neutralise problems before they reach the upper echelons of the company.
Having good problem-solving skills will empower you to see the aspects of a situation clearly, and approach them with a level head and purposeful decisions. Problems and difficulties are inevitable at any organisation, but the way you address them can make all the difference to the level of stress they cause, and help develop your mental resilience as new problems arise in the future.
Aside from being a huge boon to your own mental health, problem-solving skills will be a big help in making yourself a better all-around leader, thereby minimising the stress felt by your team and contributing to a more serene, pleasant workplace.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.
Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.
Though soft skills are often overlooked by business leaders who are trying to develop themselves as professionals, they’re just as important to your success as a manager as specialised knowledge or “hard” skills. Honing these core qualities can make all the difference to mental health in the workplace, for you, your bosses, and the people who look to you for guidance.
About the Author
Gemma Williams works remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus toward growing her personal brand, connecting with leading experts in the industry and providing value in topics related to career development. Connect with her on Twitter: @GemmaHartTweets