Interpersonal Leadership Skills

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, you should hone these interpersonal skills: communication, active listening, feedback, trust & honesty, selflessness, self-awareness, compassion and empathizingy, collaboration and conflict resolution.

Inter-personal skills are the specific interpersonal applications that individuals apply in work or business situations. These skills can be simple to learn but difficult to master because they require an understanding of both people and situations along with the ability to adapt to different types of people. They show up in your day-to-day role at work in your interactions with people.

Effective interpersonal skills are typically grounded in empathy, active listening, patience, compassion, and the ability to understand others’ points of view. People with strong interpersonal skills intuitively understand how the people they’re dealing with feel about an issue, what motivates them or concerns them. They possess a solid understanding of their own emotions and how they affect others, allowing them to interact with empathy and understanding.

Interpersonal skills are “people” skills that enable individuals to have positive relationships that are based on trust, honesty, communication, feedback, selflessness, openness and respect. Interpersonal skills further involve the ability to recognize the feelings of others (empathy), demonstrate high levels of self-awareness and effectively communicate with others. Leaders must be keenly aware of their own feelings and the emotions they trigger in others while simultaneously understanding how to manage relationships with individuals from different cultures, backgrounds and personalities.

Interpersonal Skills in Leadership:

1. Communication

Communication is the foundation of leadership, and good communication skills are essential for leaders because they enable them to collaborate with team members at all levels in the organization. They allow leaders to influence others, promote teamwork and provide direction on projects or tasks. Leaders who lack strong communication skills often fail because they can’t get buy-in from their employees for new ideas, they can’t convey a vision that galvanizes others to action or provide the guidance for team members needed to move projects forward.

Communication is more than just exchanging information. It’s an opportunity to build relationships and trust among colleagues by being explicit about your intentions and expectations, listening carefully to what your colleagues have to say and sharing mutual respect. There are many forms of communication such as verbal, nonverbal, written, visual and cultural.

2. Active Listening

Active listening is a key aspect of interpersonal skills in leadership because it allows you to maintain focus on others while avoiding the temptation to formulate your response or interrupt when someone else is speaking. Good leaders show they are listening by making eye contact, focusing their attention on the speaker and asking questions to clarify what was said. They also demonstrate through body language that they understand what’s being conveyed.

Active listening involves more than just keeping your mouth shut or responding “uh-huh.” You can’t be effective in relating with others if you’re not paying attention to what’s being said or you’re distracted by other issues. You may think you’re listening, but if your response doesn’t acknowledge the speaker and demonstrate that you’ve heard what was conveyed, it means nothing.

Effective interpersonal skills should result in clear messages that are well received, so be sure to convey your message in a way that will be understood. Your tone of voice should deliver your message in a positive way, without being too casual or too formal.

3. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to identify with, relate to and understand another person’s situation or feelings. It’s getting inside someone else’s head in order to see things from their perspective. With empathy, you take an interest in others, not just for personal gain but because you’re interested in understanding them better. You’re able to take in the whole picture, understand how people feel about issues under discussion and appreciate their point of view.

Empathy is an asset when dealing with colleagues because it gives you insight into what’s important to them, what motivates them and how they think. How well do you know your team members? Do you truly understand what makes them tick—how they take in information, what’s important to them and how they feel about certain issues? Empathy is integral to good communication.

4. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness involves knowing your strengths, limitations, values, needs and drives—what makes you tick. It means being aware of self—how you behave in different situations and how you are perceived by others. Good leaders are sensitive to their own feelings, motivations and actions. Their self-awareness enables them to recognize situations that may be stressful or confrontational so they can avoid them when possible, manage the situation effectively if avoidance is not possible, or prepare for the possibility of conflict.

Self-awareness is key to good performance. How do you react in different situations? Are you able to handle conflict or does it make you uncomfortable? How did your college major, family background and work experience influence the skills that are most important for your current job? By knowing yourself, you’re better able to understand what drives other people.

5. Self-Management

Self-management is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and emotions in order to accomplish a goal. It’s knowing your limits, staying composed under pressure and thinking clearly when facing difficult situations. The more you know about yourself—your values, needs, drives, motivations and reactions—the better prepared you’ll be to manage yourself effectively when necessary.

Self-management means good coping skills. How do you manage your reaction to stressful situations? Do you know how to handle criticism, cope with demands that are too much for you or reduce the tension when faced with conflict? Coping effectively is critical to job performance. The better able you are to control your emotions and direct your energy productively, the better your chances of attaining your goals.

6. Motivation

Motivation is the desire to do something, a force that moves you toward a goal or idea. In other words, it’s what gets you started and keeps you going—initiative and drive. It involves action-orientation and persistence in spite of difficulties.

Motivation is extremely important in the workplace. Think about how you feel when presented with new challenges. Do you get excited by new ideas and opportunities, or do you become overwhelmed? Can you stick with an unrewarding task until it’s completed? How committed are you to your work goals and personal growth—do they motivate you enough to feel that you’re giving your all? Leadership requires a high level of motivation; otherwise, why bother trying to influence others?

7. Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is the commitment and obligation we feel toward others in the workplace and society. It’s caring about and helping other people—both at work and outside of work—and having concern for the well-being of others.

Social responsibility is vital to success in the workplace. Think about your relationships at work; do you feel good when helping your colleagues meet their goals? How willing are you to pitch in and take on accounting for a co-worker who is out sick or help someone learn how to use new software? The more socially responsible you are, the more equipped you’ll be to create strong interpersonal relationships that can help move you toward your goals.

8. Innovation

The ability to adapt and be creative is essential. Flexibility in thought and action enables us to respond effectively when faced with new problems, opportunities or unexpected situations. It allows us to explore new areas of interest and devise new ways to approach issues.

Innovation is necessary in today’s workplace. How do you handle change? Can you stay focused when required to perform different tasks that require varied skills and abilities? Are your creative or able to think outside the box? Innovation helps organizations maintain a competitive advantage; it’s key for job performance today and in the future.

9. Formal Knowledge

Formal knowledge is the information, research and data acquired through education, training or other resources. It’s knowing how to apply procedures or follow rules, along with an understanding of concepts and terminology.

Your formal knowledge affects your job performance in a big way. For example, do you know how to use new software? Do you understand the best practices for handling accounts receivable, or do you need to consult with others on what to do if there’s a payment issue? How will you complete your tasks if required to work independently (without help from the boss)? Formal knowledge is critical to success in today’s workplace.

10. Fluency

Fluency is the ability to express yourself easily and accurately, whether through written or oral communication. It’s communicating your knowledge effectively to others—in other words, knowing how to communicate technical information in plain English.

Fluency plays a big role in job performance; it’s especially important if you’re an engineer, accountant or other professional whose work requires a high level of expertise. Do you have trouble explaining your ideas in a way that other people can easily understand? Can you explain procedures in a way that’s helpful to others—even if they’re doing different types of work or require slightly different information? Fluency is an essential skill for getting buy-in and cooperation from others.

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