You’re well-qualified, have highly-desirable technical skills and extensive experience in your field, so you’re obviously prime leadership material, right? Think again.

While these attributes are crucial to your professional success, to be a strong leader it is vital that you also possess people skills – otherwise known as “soft” skills.

Calling them “soft” is, in fact, an insulting misnomer. These are not frivolous qualities comprising how well you can discuss the weather with your colleagues or orchestrate small talk at the Christmas party.

Successful leaders get things done through those they manage, so strong people skills are a must. These skills, more rightly known as “emotional intelligence”, help to build trusting and respectful relationships between a leader and their team. Without them, you have sterile working environments with low productivity, which also provides the perfect breeding ground for toxic behaviour.


These qualities are harder to teach than technical skills, but they are obtainable. Here’s how:

Be a good listener – to be able to articulate yourself well is a prized ability, but of all the communication skills the ability to actively listen to another is king. Most people will hear someone speak, and then start to prepare a response before they’ve finished or interrupt them mid-flow. Taking the time to let people speak and formulate your answers appropriately shows you value your colleague’s thoughts and makes them feel heard.

Keep an open mind – In a diverse and inclusive workplace, it’s likely that people will have different viewpoints. Being prepared to take on board varying opinions and show people that they will be embraced, helps nurture trust and respect.

Give encouragement – Everyone wants to feel that others believe in them, so showing support through encouragement will let your team members know that they’re heading in the right direction, or motivate them to get back on track.

Show patience – Even with encouragement, some colleagues – especially those who are new – may need time to develop the skills and experience required to execute their roles effectively. Being patient and demonstrating your trust in their progress, is equally as motivational.

Be empathetic – Life isn’t perfect and your team members will individually face personal hiccups from time to time. The ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes and show that you relate, or at least appreciate, their issues helps foster strong relationships. Keen empathetic skills are also key to understanding what motivates people and predicting their responses in certain situations – perfect for helping you to build a driven and productive team.

Develop a sense of humour – In the workplace, when used appropriately (remember harassment and bullying cannot be laughed away!), humour has a key role to play in building bonds, injecting a sense of fun into the working day and helping diffuse low-level tension, plus it shows you’re a personable leader.

Be aware of body language – It’s not just what comes out of your mouth that’s important! Body language makes up the majority of how we communicate with others so be mindful of your gestures, expressions, voice and appearance as this could harm the other people skills you’ve worked so hard to foster.

If you’re an HR professional or manager and would like further help in developing people skills, Tell Jane offers bespoke training workshops to help leaders nurture these all-important qualities. Please email to find out more.



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