There’s an important difference between managers and leaders. Managers make sure their employees understand their responsibilities, assignments and due dates. They provide their employees with reasonable tools to get their jobs done. Leaders, on the other hand, support and encourage their employees so they not only do their jobs, but do those jobs effectively, while thriving in their own careers.
Many people can become managers, but not every manager is an effective leader. The difference lies in the use of interpersonal leadership skills, which can either make or break the relationship you have with your team.
Why Interpersonal Leadership Skills Are Important in the Workplace
You may have multiple degrees and years of experience, but that is not what will matter most to your employees. A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Management Education and Training found interpersonal skills to be the most important traits for effective leadership.
Survey participants in the study ranked communication, emotional intelligence and people management as the top three traits that leaders should have. All three traits were ranked higher than soft skills such as decision making and strategic thinking, as well as concrete skills like financial management and data analysis.
Which Interpersonal Leadership Skills Should You Hone?
Interpersonal skills affect almost every area of business. Your people skills come into play when you enter into a negotiation, close a business deal or woo a client. They can help you build partnerships as well as a collaborative team environment. If you intend to be a leader and not just a manager, these are the interpersonal skills that you should hone:
Communication skills are a crucial interpersonal skill or trait that all effective leaders need to develop. Successful leaders need to be able to portray effective communication. Leaders with poor communication skills tend to veer into the command and control leadership style which is only effective in certain settings. Be specific with your directives and your expectations. Be clear and concise. Don’t say in 1,000 words what you could say in 100 words. Also be careful with what you don’t say. Nonverbal communication can convey just as much-if not more-than verbal communication. Your facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language can speak volumes during negotiations, interviews, trainings and team meetings.
- Active Listening
Listen to understand, not to merely reply. Pay attention to each person you converse with and ask yourself what you can learn from that conversation. Let the members of your team know that you hear them. This will help them stay engaged and make them more willing to provide feedback when you request it.
Feedback is essential for many reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that you want to maintain a consistently high level of performance from your staff. Being able to give constructive criticism is important in a leadership role. It is hugely valuable to you and the company by telling your employees what they are doing well along with what needs improvement. Over time, your team members will be more likely to appreciate your negative feedback if they know it is being presented with good intentions and while maintaining a positive attitude-showing positivity, even in difficult situations, is key.
- Trust and Honesty
Be as honest and transparent with your employees as possible, especially in times of crisis. Everyone will look to you for guidance, so it’s up to you to give them reason to trust what you say and how you act. In the same token, display trust in your employees by not micro-managing them.
Your team is more likely to trust you and your leadership if they believe you have the best interests of the company at heart, and not the best interests of your own career. Show your employees that they are a priority and are valued members of the company through incentives and investments in their professional development. Plan one-on-one time with each member of your team; it shows that you value them and their contributions.
Be self-reflective about your own strengths and weaknesses so you can tap the right resources and do what’s best for the company. You also need the ability to adjust your approach to the situation at hand. For example, if you are used to an autocratic approach but are now in charge of a team project, you’ll need to acknowledge your usual style may not work. How can you adjust?
- Compassion and Empathy
These two skills go hand-in-hand with self-awareness. With these skills, you can understand others’ thoughts and feelings. When you are able to see a situation from another’s perspective, you help to build trust and make people feel like humans and not just an employee ID.
If you’re ready to hone your leadership skills, consider earning an Online MBA from SMU’s Cox School of Business. Our professional faculty can teach you the skills that well-rounded leaders possess, in addition to critical business skills. Request more information today.