There are a number of different leadership styles in the workplace, which range from authoritarian to more democratic forms of management. These leadership style types drastically differ and certainly affect organisational culture, as well as employee morale and engagement. In other words, as a leader, your interpersonal skills can make or break you.

A report by Leadership IQ found that managerial styles play a key role in a leader’s ability to be effective. So how do interpersonal skills affect your leadership styles, and which are the most effective?

What are interpersonal skills and why do they matter?

Interpersonal skills are the social skills we use to interact with others at work. These behaviours form part of an individual’s emotional intelligence, and encompass a wide array of capabilities, such as:

  • Verbal communication 
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Empathy 
  • Negotiation
  • Conflict management
  • Influence 
  • Active listening 

Regardless of the industry or the discipline you work in, interpersonal skills are integral to career success — especially in a leadership position. 

Strong interpersonal skills enable leaders to foster meaningful relationships with their team, engage and motivate employees, navigate setbacks, and address the root cause of poor performance. In fact, multiple studies have shown that leaders with high emotional intelligence create more connected and motivated teams.  

How do interpersonal skills influence your managerial style?

Communication skills

Communication skills are a crucial interpersonal trait that all effective leaders need to develop – and continue to work on to improve. The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and non-verbally, lies at the core of employee engagement. Research by Lemonly shows that 3 in 4 employees see effective communication as the number one leadership attribute. Despite this, only a third think their leaders communicate effectively.

Leaders with poor communication skills may veer into command-and-control styles of management. While this is effective in certain settings, such as the military, most experts agree this form of leadership rarely resonates with today’s talent. 

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Empathetic leaders put themselves in a team member’s shoes and truly understand what motivates them. These types of leaders earn the trust of their team by establishing a genuine connection with them, and create an environment built upon collaboration and mutual respect. 

Numerous studies have revealed that empathy fuels productivity and performance. It also leads to a happier workforce, which in turn improves employee retention. This interpersonal skill lends itself to coaching and affiliative leadership style management, which focus on putting people first and developing their team’s talents.

Active listening

Active listening is the art of hearing what a speaker says, truly understanding their message, and responding thoughtfully. This skill is crucial in building rapport with employees and stakeholders.

Leaders that actively listen generally tend to be democratic managers. They listen, understand, and take on board the feedback that everyone has to offer. This feedback then informs their future decision-making process. Active listening is also a key trait for coach-style managers, who help employees work towards their goals. 

On the other hand, a leader who rarely practices active listening can often be perceived as having an autocratic management style. 

Negotiation and influence

Leaders are often required to negotiate with employees and stakeholders, handle disputes, and influence decision-making. Because of this, negotiation and conflict resolution have a significant impact on the leadership style a manager adopts.

A manager with strong negotiation skills can easily become a coach, but it can also be a valuable trait to have for managers with a visionary or pace-setting style. Managers who lack these skills often default to demanding outcomes from team members — and a report by CPP found this eventually leads to decreased morale, low employee engagement, and higher staff turnover.

Regardless of which style you adopt, interpersonal skills are crucial to effective leadership. By improving these skills, you can motivate your team, foster stronger engagement, and ultimately improve workplace outcomes in your organisation.

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