Top managers typically perform endless tasks, such as controlling and overseeing the entire organization, developing goals, making strategic plans, motivating employees, and making decisions in the direction of the business. While your specialized knowledge and hard skills will help you to successfully perform all the technical tasks in your role, how will you create a positive and functional environment in the workplace? Well… The answer to this question boils down to your soft skills or people skills. 

The importance of soft skills is often undervalued as most people believe that only hard skills can help them achieve their goals. However, what they fail to understand is that a lack of soft skills may infect the entire organization. It may result in creating a negative environment and lower employee morale. It may also impact employee turnover. 

Regardless of which industry you work in, you need a wide range of skills to become an effective leader. If you want to create a positive working environment for your employees so that they perform at their best capacities, then you might want to consider reading this post to find out which soft skills you are going to need to shine and lead by example. Here is the curated list of the 10 must-have soft skills for top managers. 

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are the non-technical abilities of a person that enable him/her to perform well, achieve goals, and work well with others in the workplace. It is a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, personality traits, and attitude, among others. Unlike hard skills, soft skills are intangible. A variety of skills fall under the purview of soft skills. 

Benefits of Soft Skills in the Workplace: 

  1. Boosts workplace productivity
  2. Reduced risks
  3. More self-confidence
  4. Improves employee retention
  5. Improves office culture
  6. Greater agility
  7. Reduced turnover
  8. Improved morale

Which is more Important – Hard Skill or Soft Skill?

Hard skills are gained through formal education or specific training. It includes competencies like how to use software or a machine. Soft skills, on the other hand, include personality traits and your overall habits in the workplace.

Undeniable, both hard skills and soft skills are important for the success of an organization. Many professions require very specific and well-developed hard skills, without which you won’t be able to accomplish any task. But even then, soft skills will help you to develop and use your hard skills successfully. In simple terms, soft skills make your hard skills valuable. 

10 Must-Have Soft Skills For Top Managers

Here are the 10 must-have soft skills for top managers. We have provided course recommendations with every skill to help you get trained in that skill and boost your career. 

1. Communication 

As a top manager, you may need to share information with a variety of audiences, such as employees, team members, customers, partners, and stakeholders, among others. You must be able to think and express yourself with clarity. You must know how to handle the flow of information within as well as outside of the organization. 

Top managers with good communication skills display some of the following traits: 

  • Share thoughts and ideas clearly 
  • Keep the communication process open and transparent 
  • Listen and encourage others to offer ideas
  • Affirm with actions
  • Listen actively 
  • Ask for feedback

Course Recommendations: 

Business Fundamentals: Effective Communication on FutureLearn [Free]

Communication Skills: Become More Clear, Concise, & Confident on SkillShare [Free]

Excellence in Managerial Communication by IIM Calcutta [Paid]

2. Mentoring

If you have reached the senior position in your organization, then it means that you have a reserve of experience, knowledge, and skills. As a good leader, you must pass on that knowledge to your peers and subordinates. You must be willing to help your employees to build a high degree of confidence. Being a top manager, you may need to train and advise your team members and play a supportive role. You may also need to become the driving force behind the progression of your team. 

Good leaders with mentoring skills display the following traits:

  • Willing to share knowledge, skills, and expertise
  • Acts as a positive role model
  • Displays enthusiasm
  • Exhibits a positive attitude
  • Offers guidance 
  • Gives constructive feedback
  • Listens actively
  • Values the opinions of others
  • Value diversity of perspectives

Course Recommendations: 

Be a Great Mentor: A Practical Guide to Mentorship on Udemy [Paid]

3. Creative Problem-Solving and Effective Decision-Making Skills

As a leader, you must have the ability to quickly devise creative solutions to each problem in the workplace, no matter how big or small the problem is. You must know how to anticipate, identify, solve, prevent, as well as learn from problems that occur in the workplace.

Leaders adept at decision-making skills can make informed decisions quickly. They evaluate risks and opportunities and are committed to achieving their goals.  

Top managers with these skills display the following qualities:

  • Understand complex problems
  • Identify potential causes and alternatives to resolve the problem 
  • Are flexible and willing to change
  • Have an open mind
  • Make fact-based decisions
  • Are good listeners
  • Have a clear set of priorities

Course Recommendations: 

Effective Problem-Solving and Decision-Making on Coursera [Free]

Decision-making and Risk: An Introduction on FutureLearn [Free]

4. Emotional Intelligence 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions as well as recognize and influence the emotions of others. If you want to excel as a leader, you need to be adept at emotional intelligence. It helps you to successfully collaborate with others, mentor teams, and manage stress. Emotional intelligence is comprised of four components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Emotions
  • Empathy
  • Relationship building

Managers with a high degree of emotional intelligence know about their feelings and emotions and how these emotions can affect other people.

Leaders with emotional intelligence have the following attributes:

  • Promote a safe work environment
  • Motivate employees
  • Drive the organization forward
  • Foster a culture of accountability

Course Recommendations: 

Develop your Emotional Intelligence on Alison [Free]

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence on Coursera [Free]

5. Time Management 

Leaders are often occupied with a variety of tasks and responsibilities that keep their schedules packed. To become an effective leader, you must learn time management skills and understand how to utilize it to ensure that you maximize your time and accomplish the goals. Those who fail at managing their time effectively can have some very undesirable consequences on the organization, such as missed deadlines and poor work quality.

Effective time management skills can have a positive impact on your personal as well as professional life. When you learn how to manage your time, you will be able to improve your ability to get things done and gain ultimate control of your key priorities. 

Top managers adept at time management skills display the following behavior:  

  • Plan their work ahead
  • Set priorities
  • Minimize interruptions 
  • Focus on one task at a time
  • Organize important emails
  • Delegate work 
  • Ask clarifying questions at the start of a meeting

Course Recommendations: 

Time Management & Productivity on Udemy [Paid]

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal & Professional Productivity on Coursera [Free]

6. Teamwork 

Teamwork is an important skill that leaders need to have in the workplace. It is crucial for the success of all businesses as it enables the workforce to split difficult tasks into simpler ones and then work together to complete them effectively and efficiently. As a leader, you must know how to put together a good team. Teamwork skills can help you to get the tasks completed efficiently while creating a positive environment at work. 

Leaders with teamwork skills have the following qualities:

  • Ensure everyone understands their role and responsibilities
  • Set clear goals
  • Establish deadlines
  • Promotes clear and transparent communication
  • Delegate work 
  • Empowers staff
  • Deal promptly with poor performance
  • Praise achievements

Course Recommendations: 

Work Effectively in a Team by OpenClassrooms [Free]

7. Forward-Planning Skills

Apart from knowing what is happening in the organization today, you must have the capacity to look at the bigger picture. As a top manager, you may have to create or review the company’s plans and policies, which is why you must have strong planning skills. Forward-thinking top managers are driven by their business vision and mission and promote innovation to make the organization more productive. 

The following behaviors are exercised by leaders with good planning skills: 

  • Driven by a clear vision and mission
  • Promote transparent communication
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Foster innovation
  • Take initiative
  • Taking Initiative

8. Empathy

Empathy is one of the critical skills to learn for top management. It refers to the ability to understand the needs of others. As a good leader, you must be aware of the feelings of your team members and how it impacts their perception. By understanding employees, top managers can build a sense of trust which may lead to greater collaboration and improved productivity.

Effective leaders exhibit empathy through the following traits:

  • Awareness of the needs of your employees
  • Create an environment of open communication
  • Listen to people
  • Don’t rush to give advice
  • Encourage people
  • Give genuine recognition and praise

Course Recommendations: 

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work on edX [Paid]

9. Leadership

Leadership refers to your ability to motivate and inspire others to succeed. As an effective leader, you must have the ability to steer employees towards achieving the business goals and inspire them to deliver results. 

Managers with good leadership skills display the following traits in the workplace:

  • A positive outlook
  • Ability to make quick and effective decisions
  • Communicate effectively
  • Self-motivated 
  • Motivate others

Course Recommendations: 

Inspired Leadership for Managers on SkillSoft []

Leadership Excellence: An Alternate Approach by IIM Calcutta [Paid]

10. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

Negotiation is a crucial skill that every leader needs to master. Top managers may have to negotiate both externally and internally. Externally, they deal with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Internally they negotiate for resources and support. Thus, you should know how to be persuasive and exert influence to reach a solution that is favorable for all the parties. 

Here are a few instances of negotiations: 

Negotiating with:

  • Roles and workload within a project team
  • Union contract
  • A project deadline
  • Customer over the price
  • A legal settlement  
  • Supply agreements with vendors

Conflict resolution is how you establish a rapport with your peers and customers. Different people in the workplace may have different opinions, which is why conflicts sometimes become inevitable. As a top manager, you must address the conflict while being respectful to all the people involved. At times you may disagree with the thoughts of other people, but you need to show empathy to everyone involved. 

Following are the qualities that are displayed by leaders with good negotiation and conflict resolution skills: 

  • Broad-based knowledge
  • Authoritative
  • Team person
  • Active listening skills
  • Good decision-making ability

Course Recommendations: 

Conflict Resolution Skills on Coursera [Free]

Resolve Conflicts at Work on OpenClassrooms [Free]

Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills on edX [Free]

Negotiation Mastery by Harvard University [Paid]

Self Assessment

Must-Have Top Skills for Top Managers – How many soft skills do you have

Now that you have read about all the soft skills for top managers, it is time for you to do a self-assessment. 

Find out how many traits of each skill listed in this post do you possess and how many do you lack. This assessment will help you to identify the skills on which you need to work. 


You might have the best technical skills in your organization, but it is the soft skills that differentiate between a successful top manager and a skilled employee. The 10 must-have soft skills for top managers mentioned in this post will help you to shape the culture of your team in endless ways, which is why they are critical for success in today’s workplace.  

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