Why Interpersonal Leadership Skills Matter & How To Improve

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
Why Interpersonal Leadership Skills Matter & How To Improve

Today’s leaders need strong interpersonal leadership skills – like communication, emotional intelligence, and people management – if they want to lead more effectively. Keep reading to learn more about interpersonal leadership and the most important interpersonal skills for (future) leaders.

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.”

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

Why Are Interpersonal Skills Critical In Management?

People with strong interpersonal skills tend to make good leaders because of their ability to communicate and motivate those around them.


In the Australian Institute of Management’s Leadership Survey 2019, respondents cited communication, emotional intelligence, and people management as the most critical interpersonal skills for leadership – beating “hard skills” like financial management and data analysis. While “traditional” leadership skills like strategic planning and business analytics are still critical for the future, the most effective leaders also rely on their interpersonal skills to inspire and engage others.

Most Important Interpersonal Leadership Skills

  1. Communication –

The key to great leadership is communication.

To drive their teams towards success, managers must be able to communicate effectively – both verbally and non-verbally. In fact, 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 in a respectful manner, show an interest in others, speak calmly even when stressed, and demonstrate assertiveness.

  1. Conflict Management –

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

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

  1. Listening – 

Regular listening – or “internal listening” – is a sign of poor leadership. You might be pretending to listen to the other person when, in fact, you are focused on your own inner dialogue and thoughts. Deep listening, on the other hand, is an interpersonal leadership skill that zones in on things like body language and other nonverbal cues, to understand what the other person really needs even though they might not say it explicitly.

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, and waiting to give your opinion.

  1. Empathy –

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 be feeling.

In their Global Talent Trends 2020 report, Linkedin identified empathy as a key business trend for the next decade.

Furthermore, 86% of employees believe that empathy is important in the workplace, but less than half say that their leaders show empathy. Leaders who lack empathy can result in de-motivated team environments and negative performance. Who wants to work for a leader who doesn’t care about its people?

  1. Influencing –

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

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

Tips On Improving Your Interpersonal Leadership Skills

  1. Ask For Feedback –

While you might already have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader, it doesn’t hurt to ask others for feedback. Which interpersonal leadership skills are your strongest? Which skills do you need to improve?

Getting feedback from your manager and co-workers is vital to your ongoing development and will help you build confidence at work.

  1. Get An Accountability Partner –

An accountability partner is someone who holds you responsible for achieving the tasks and goals you set for yourself. In this case, if you’d like to improve your interpersonal leadership skills, your accountability partner can help keep you on track and make sure you stay committed to developing your skills. Your accountability partner can also provide feedback and tips on a regular basis.

For your accountability partner, choose someone who is non-judgmental and with whom you feel comfortable sharing. If you hide things from your partner, it defeats the purpose.

  1. Join EMERGE!

Luckily for you, THNK offers an Emerging Leaders Program for young professionals who want to develop their interpersonal leadership skills! In this six-week, online course, you will develop your personal and professional skills to lead others more effectively.

The EMERGE program focuses on important interpersonal management skills like communication, deep listening, managing conflict, influencing without authority, and reframing.

Develop Your Leadership

Interpersonal leadership skills, like communication, empathy, and influencing, are crucial for present and future leaders. If you want to learn how to inspire and motivate others to do their best work, join the THNK EMERGE program, where you’ll develop your interpersonal skills for more effective leadership.

Learn Interpersonal Leadership Skills As A Manager

THNK is a purpose-driven social enterprise, creating experiential and transformative leadership programs to develop creative leaders capable of delivering innovative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.

We have leadership programs for three career levels.