6 soft skills IT leaders should prioritize

In today’s stressful work environment, it’s more important than ever for leaders to master soft skills. Consider these six key examples
1 reader likes this.

These days, the demand for top talent has never been higher. As a leader, you need to retain your best employees and ensure that they remain engaged and productive. That means focusing on soft skills in potentially new ways. Doing so will not only help advance your career but also position you as a strong role model to your team and your colleagues.

Here are six soft skills that are essential for any successful leader.

1. Empathy

The ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and experience the world as they do is an invaluable skill in work and life. Interacting with understanding and acceptance helps form stronger connections and also reveals vulnerability on your part, which makes you more approachable and relatable.

Add a healthy dose of compassion to allow for mistakes and missteps with patience and understanding. Especially in times of change when people are taking risks, your compassion, caring, and tolerance will provide significant long-term benefits.

[ Also read Why IT leaders should prioritize empathy. ]

2. Integrity

Integrity in leadership means doing the right thing, no matter the circumstances. Running an honest, values-based team will help create an environment of trust that employees can count on. Integrity is one of the fundamental elements of successful relationships, amplified for those in leadership positions.

3. Confidence

Whether you’ve been in a leadership role for weeks or decades, others place their trust in you – and it’s OK to feel confident in it. That doesn’t mean you can do no wrong; in fact, it’s your confidence that can help you admit mistakes, improve, and move forward. Remember that you can demonstrate strength more fully with humility and authenticity.

4. Learning

With many people reinventing themselves these days, organizations need to be in a constant state of learning. Embrace it. Encourage it. Model it. This will help you and your people stretch and grow as you develop the skills you will need in the future.

Reboot your learning strategy to ensure it tackles critical technical skill gaps (e.g., digital, analytics) and builds and nurtures the mindsets and behaviors needed for all employees to thrive in today’s frenetic business environment. These attitudes include mindfulness, change agility, a growth mindset, radical candor, and inclusive leadership.

Sometimes thinking outside the box – or even scrapping the box – can reveal solutions you and your team hadn’t even considered.

5. Creativity

There’s always room for a crazy idea. Innovative leaders can think strategically and also imaginatively to achieve their business objectives. Sometimes thinking outside the box – or even scrapping the box – can reveal solutions you and your team hadn’t even considered.

[ Related read 6 tactics to boost creativity on your IT team ]

To make this happen across your organization, encourage divergent thinking. Give people the space and encouragement to ask “yes, and” questions that open possibilities. Then have them use “yes, but” thinking to evaluate the feasibility and prioritize the best possibilities for action.

6. Flexibility

Your ability to adapt to changes in the workplace is critical to your growth and development as a leader. Effective leaders adapt to transitions and lean into change. This enables them to support teammates in times of change and ensure their teams have input during any changes in processes or operations.

To begin practicing this, use the concept of roots and anchors. Roots are the core values, beliefs, or boundaries that keep you grounded. Identify and understand these so you can nurture them and grow. Anchors are the habits, comforts, or fears that keep you from moving forward. Know these and focus on resetting them so you can unlock movement.

It all boils down to emotional intelligence. Successful leaders know their strengths and weaknesses and are not afraid to own them. The people you lead are much more than squares on an org chart. They can make or break the success of any organization and should be treated with care and compassion. Mastering the soft side of leadership will help you immeasurably in today’s environment of rapid change.

[ Learn how CIOs are speeding toward goals while preventing employee burnout in this report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]

Christine Andrukonis
Christine Andrukonis is the founder and senior partner at Notion Consulting, a global change-leadership consultancy that helps leaders tackle their most complex business challenges.