Predictions on the Must-Have Leadership Skills for 2021

If you have been tuning in to our blogs and have also been completing the suggested reflective exercises along the way, I wanted to say thank you and congratulations for doing the work. 

Leaders who “do the work” are intentional and focused on what they want to achieve, and are more prone to thriving vs. surviving no matter what the circumstances are. We want to support you all in making this year a much more successful, fulfilling, and joyous experience by reinforcing and emphasizing the most critical must-have leadership skills.     

We have talked and written endlessly about the fact that soft skills matter and often are the differentiating factor between those who are exceptional leaders vs. average ones. The hard skills matter too, though. Do not get me wrong. But what will differentiate you and create a high-performing culture is the softer side of leadership. Attributes like emotional intelligence (EQ), self-awareness, compassion and empathy are essential to excellent, holistic leadership. 

2021 has already shown us that it is not going to be an easy year, so we need to prepare ourselves by leveraging these soft skills in combination with excellent communication skills and active listening to create deep human connections and a safe space for our people to perform at their best.

As a leader, it is likely that you already excel when it comes to the qualities and attributes that come from the head. You have the experience, business acumen, knowledge, and insights to move your team forward. If you really want to improve your leadership abilities and take your performance to the next level, it is time to focus on the types of leadership qualities that come from the heart. 

Self-awareness, which is part of EQ, is what enables us to be more compassionate, empathic and fosters effective communicative. In the absence of it, we tend to operate on autopilot and respond in a more reactive vs proactive manner. All these soft skills, when used in combination, will allow you to be present for your people in the most powerful and profound way possible. 

What Does Compassion Have to do With Leadership?

Compassion can be defined as a willingness and desire to be kind to others. It means being thoughtful and aware of what others’ lives and experiences are like. It is the opposite of indifference or cruelty, and it is one of the essential qualities that, quite frankly, determine whether one is a decent human being. It is related to the qualities of sympathy and empathy, but at its root, it describes a deeper sense of understanding. In fact, the word’s origin means to suffer with. This suggests that compassion means more than seeing others as separate entities; it means seeing them as a part of yourself and relating to what they are experiencing at a much deeper level.

Compassionate leadership recognizes that every team member is not only an important individual, but also an essential thread in the fabric of an entire organization. Compassionate leaders strive to enhance the happiness and wellbeing of their people by supporting them and giving them what they need to excel. Compassionate leadership is not focused on the short term or instant gratification; rather, it is focused on what is best for the individual, the team, and the organization, and considers other factors that may influence or impact the situation at hand.  

Why Empathy is a Must-Have Leadership Skill

Empathy is the quality that brings people together and connects them in more meaningful ways, even though we truly might not be able to relate what the other person is experiencing.

Here are a few of the ways in which becoming more empathetic can benefit organizations when leaders make it a priority:

  • Employees are happiest when they find purpose and satisfaction in their work. Workplaces that are built on cultures of empathy increase the likelihood that employees will feel happiness while on the job. Happy workplaces are productive workplaces, and it all starts with leadership.
  • A culture that embraces empathy is one in which employees are eager to share ideas, insights, and work more collaboratively together, giving the entire organization a huge boost. Collaborative workplaces built on the foundation of empathy only come into existence when leaders exhibit empathy themselves and prioritize it as a key component of their culture.
  • Employees who feel understood are far more likely to perform at a high level. They work confidently, with the knowledge that what they do is appreciated. They also understand how they provide value to the entire organization, which fuels them to always do their best. Leaders who take the time to understand their people achieve much more than those who choose not to engage at this level.

Bringing it All Together with Effective Communication 

Effective communication is critical to business success on all levels. When leaders can communicate effectively with employees, work is completed more efficiently, and productivity rises. When employees communicate more effectively among themselves and with customers, overall results are improved, and companies experience a healthier bottom line.

Here are a few things that leaders can start doing right away to benefit the flow of communication and improve employee engagement:

  • Stop telling people what to do and start engaging them in discussions and dialogue.

  • Engage people in the decision-making process and ask for their feedback; show that you acknowledge an issue or a problem, demonstrate that you want to come to a solution then engage in an open, honest discussion about potential solutions together.
  • Ensure that you are present and are actively listening, not waiting to speak when engaging with others and your team. Talk less and listen more; let them come up with the solutions and answers.
  • Build relationships; find out what makes your people special and learn about the things that inspire them. Develop a rapport that improves communication in both directions.

High-performing organizations value these must-have soft skills and make it a priority to bring the human aspect to their people in everything they do, how they interact, behave, and treat one another.

It starts at the top and it also starts with you. Leaders set the tone for how others behave and treat one another. If you want to see the softer side of your people, you need to lead by example and show them the softer more compassionate and human side of you first.

Let’s Continue the Conversation 

I would love to hear what your thoughts are on the must-have leadership skills as we are merely scratching the surface in this blog. If you would like to contact me and continue the conversation, I encourage you to send an email to or give me a call at 1.855.871.3374. I look forward to hearing from you!

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