Living that "soft skills" life - how to master the art of interpersonal relationships

May 22, 2023
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Living that "soft skills" life - how to master the art of interpersonal relationships

More than making it to the top of your game, today’s leaders need strong interpersonal leadership skills if you want to lead more effectively. Clear and open communication, emotional intelligence, and understanding how to effectively guide people are just some of the demands of a manager in 2023.

Keep reading to learn more about how to master the art of interpersonal skills.

What is interpersonal leadership?

Interpersonal leadership is the ability to inspire and engage others to do their best work towards a shared goal. Interpersonal skills are also known as “soft skills” – it’s part of those things they don’t tell you before you take on leadership roles.

Interpersonal leaders bring out the best in others through empowerment, motivation, and role modelling.

Why are they critical when you are a manager?

People with strong interpersonal skills tend to make good leaders because of their ability to communicate and motivate those around them. When you cannot form a bond with someone who looks to you for guidance, that can lead to a breakdown in leadership. To get through to your people, you need to understand them on a human, personal level first before embarking on a professional journey together. 

It's the art of interpersonal relationships that are the key to good leadership (Photo: Austin Distel)

The basics – what skills should I master?


To drive their teams towards success, managers must communicate effectively– verbally and non-verbally. One of the most important team-building skills is verbal communication, helping teams stay on track and complete projects successfully.

Managers with strong verbal communication skills convey feedback in a constructive manager, give credit to others, discipline employees respectfully, show an interest in others, speak calmly even when stressed, and demonstrate assertiveness.

We often don’t like to see ourselves as poor communicators. We have been doing this since birth. But, like walking, it’s a learning curve for everyone.

Conflict Management 

Whether it’s a disagreement on responsibilities, working methods, or even personalities, no one likes managing conflict at work. Conflict management is a core competency for many leaders, according to the Project Management Institute.

Dealing with conflict effectively can have positive outcomes. Leaders can resolve conflict to find better outcomes for everyone involved by using interpersonal leadership skills like assertiveness, mediation, empathy, facilitation, creative problem-solving, accountability, and active listening.


Regular listening – or “internal listening” – indicates poor leadership. You might seem to be listening to the other person when, in fact, you are focused on your inner dialogue and thoughts. 

On the other hand, deep listening is an interpersonal leadership skill that focuses on body language and other nonverbal cues. According to a 2020 study by Emtrain, 1 in 10 employees do not trust that their leaders would listen if they made a complaint – thus making them feel unheard and unsupported, which affects their performance. Deep listening can, therefore, improve employee experience and performance.

Deep listening techniques include:

  • Building trust.
  • Paraphrasing to show understanding.
  • Asking open-ended questions.
  • Waiting to give your opinion.


Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes to understand their feelings, thoughts, and actions and, ultimately, imagine how they must feel. In their Global Talent Trends 2020 report, Linkedin identified empathy as a key business trend for the next decade.


Leaders and managers must be able to gain influence in their organizations to boost their team’s performance and development. Managers who lack influencing or negotiation skills are more likely to succumb to other demands. 

According to a report by CPP Global, this can lead to decreased team morale, low employee engagement, and higher staff turnover.

Managers can leverage interpersonal leadership skills like deep listening, effective assertion, and self-awareness to influence without authority.

Which interpersonal leadership skills are your strongest? Which skills do you need to improve? While you might already understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, it doesn’t hurt to ask others for feedback. Getting feedback from your manager and co-workers is vital to your ongoing development and will help you build confidence at work.

Here’s an idea - get an accountability partner 

An accountability partner holds you responsible for achieving the tasks and goals you set for yourself.