Top Soft Skills for Managers

soft skills for managers

Successful business leaders possess a solid foundation of technical knowledge and skills with real-world industry experience. Just as vital to their success, though, are soft skills. Developing and administrating these skills early in a professional’s career can accelerate professional advancement, as well as aid managers leading teams and organizations.

In all industries—from construction to healthcare—employees and staff members rely on business leaders to articulate an organization’s vision and mission. Good leaders design and implement business plans while motivating individuals to meet their short and long-term goals. They cultivate productive and positive work environments by incorporating soft business skills in their conversations and workday practices.

If softs skills are not something that you excel at, the good news is that you can learn and practice. There are courses, books, and resources that can help you develop these critical skills. Here are the top ten soft skills managers should consider developing and courses that could help you in your journey:



Learners interested in communicating more effectively at work while achieving their goals should consider taking some coursework in communication. Communication courses often teach students how to discern if the person they are talking to is being dishonest (and how to react if they are), keys to developing trust, the best methods of communication for negotiation, and how to apologize when you have made a mistake.

You can also expect to learn when to cooperate and when to compete, craft persuasive messages, ask thought-provoking questions, practice active listening, and choose the suitable communication medium (phone call, face-to-face conversation, video conference, texting, or email) for messages. By the end of a communication course, you should be able to understand what someone wants, respond strategically to their desires and needs, create convincing and clear messages, and hone the critical communication skills professionals need to get ahead in business and life.

One such course is offered by award-winning Wharton instructor and best-selling author Maurice Schweitzer. His course, entitled Improving Communications Skills, is designed to give distance learners the tools they need to improve their communication skills and how to gain the most successful strategies for using them to their advantage.

Time Management

Time management is critical to success in business. By sharpening your skills in this area, you can apply knowledge and understanding of professional and personal awareness, organization, and commitment. Using the tools, techniques, and methods of high-quality time management, you will enjoy goal setting, delegation, prioritization, and scheduling to overcome time management issues and enhance productivity.

Committing to a course in time management will produce many positive effects, including the skills of learning to plan effectively to achieve one’s personal and professional goals. Good time managers also know how to recognize and overcome successful time management barriers like inconsistency and the difference between what is essential and what is urgent. Any time management course worth its salt will help learners understand the importance of identifying specific time management tools and show them how to use them effectively. Time managers use resources effectively and efficiently by garnering strategies to keep a sense of perspective while preventing and managing crises. They learn to delegate effectively and manage expectations while learning how to say “No” when appropriate are other essential time management factors.


Collaboration is a vital tool in any manager’s skillset. Learning how to get along with others results in the best possible outcome in business. Taking a course in collaboration is an excellent way to learn this art. currently offers a free class on collaboration that is entitled “Mastering Collaboration: Work together for the best results.” Program content includes ways to benefit from business collaboration and why it’s a vital part of how organizations get work done in today’s global marketplace. Students also learn to guarantee that collaborative teams work successfully within a project.

Successful collaboration includes the fundamentals of designing and leading a collaborative team, organizing and getting the most out of collaborative meetings, and an online collaboration opportunity that shows how to collaborate across groups effectively. A good collaboration lesson shows students what they need to create and support for a thriving collaboration culture. By the end of any course on this topic, students should be confident in setting the example in business by creating effective teams and building collaboration into their organization’s goals and values for long-term success.

Conflict Resolution

Mediation is an integral part of reaching peaceful and mutual solutions in today’s business world – on all levels, including social, international, peacekeeping, political, and industrial. A quality course in conflict resolution helps the student choose and lead within the mediation process. Mediation students gain a deeper understanding of international and workplace conflict resolution.

One excellent free course on this topic is Coursera’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Students interested in this online course are encouraged to first complete Fundamentals of Negotiation. Both courses can be acquired through the site’s MOOC “Negotiation Fundamentals.” Upon course completion, learners will be proficient in defining what mediation is and discern when to use it, be able to list different types of mediation, and identify challenges and issues that most mediators face. Students can also choose the appropriate strategies within a list of options while remembering the dos and don’ts of mediation.



Employee high performance is one of the essential contributors to successful organizations. But how can leaders encourage high performance while supporting workers? In a course that teaches motivation, a learner will be exposed to lessons covering topics of managing for high performance, motivating employees through coaching and goal setting, measuring performance fairly and accurately, and strategies to develop a performance that supports organizational goals.

The University of Canterbury offers a free online course entitled “Motivation: Performance and Motivation at Work.” This distance course begins by defining performance. Students describe what performance is and list the vital factors that contribute to high performance. The course then looks at performance measurement as students describe unique approaches, like measuring results and behavior. Any course on this soft skill should lead learners to explain how criteria and standards are created to capture performance. They should also learn about the need for accuracy (validity) and fairness within performance ratings. Motivation matters because motivated professionals get more done in business.

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation are closely related. Business professionals with a creative flair can look at issues from a unique perspective and develop innovative solutions and technologies. While everyone on the planet is having their life disrupted by wars, pandemics, global warming, political chaos, and innovations in technology, it is an essential time for business leaders to form the soft skill of creativity and innovation. Worldwide, people must now prepare for an unknown and unpredictable future. This is the goal of Coursera’s course called “Creativity, Innovation, and Transformation.” This excellent course on creativity and innovation includes the four main modules of Innovation Toolbox, Creative Diversity, CENTER, and Transformation. The soft skill course trains students to discover their unique creative and innovative nature, grow a sense of responsibility to ourselves and community, transform our inner world into higher ethical states, and appreciate unexpected beauty and deeper meaning. Since creativity unlocks a professional’s ability to innovate and make sound business decisions, receiving some training in this soft skill is an excellent idea.


A decision is a choice or act of selecting one action from a group of alternatives. Decision-making is often defined as choosing a practical course of action from two or more options to achieve the desired result. Good decision-making lies at the very heart of sound business management. P. F. Drucker wrote, “Whatever a manager does, he (or she) does through making decisions.”

All matters relating to direction, planning, organizing, coordination, and control are determined by managers through decisions that are put into practice by an organization’s operators. Policies, objectives, goals, strategies, and organizational designs are decided upon to regulate a business’s performance. Decision-making is a vital soft skill because the entire managerial process is based on various decisions. Decisions are needed for addressing issues and taking maximum advantage of available opportunities. Sound decisions reduce waste, complexities, and uncertainties within an organizational environment.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the pursuit of understanding and managing personal emotions, as well as the emotions of others around you. This is a great soft skill for managers to possess, especially when working in teams. Pursuing a course or certificate in emotional intelligence offers business professionals an extraordinary opportunity to spend quality time by themselves to assess their current soft skills, clearly define their core self, and strengthen their emotional intelligence, all which are vital to professional and overall life, success. If you are not sure how to progress with some coursework in the subject or want to brush up on the critical skill, consider a free online course currently offered by the business school at the University of Maryland. The course is called “Let’s Get Emotional: Emotions & Emotional Intelligence.”

Course content reveals how emotions are a vital secondary intelligence system. Emotional intelligence can be measured, developed, and deployed with practice and education as an applied skill. A well-developed vocabulary of emotions is central to emotional intelligence. Any course or certificate one seeks on this soft skill should include definitions of emotions, why they are essential, and lessons on survival and growth.



Empathy is a soft skill against which many have set barriers needing to be unlearned. In business and personal and family relationships, people can be quick to internalize unhealthy ways of communicating and listening. These behaviors get bred into a new normal that nurtures loneliness and disconnection. The antidote to this tendency is for business professionals to receive training based on transactional analysis, social psychology, and NLP.

A course like’s “Becoming an Empathetic Leader” helps students learn ways to understand unhealthy relationship dynamics, get exposed to listening and responding blockers that compromise relationships, and discover practical guidelines to become active listeners. Empathy training can also help professionals learn how to manage conflicts and avoid misunderstandings. If you’re interested in learning how to be an empathetic leader, look for courses and resources that keep up with trends and stay relevant.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Rounding out the top-ten soft skills that managers should spend time developing is adaptability and flexibility. As the saying goes, the only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability. While planning is essential in business, adapting and changing course when needed is also vital. Some people are naturally flexible and can adapt quickly to situations, while others struggle to find a plan B when conflict arises.

Courses like’s “Adaptability and Flexibility: Improve Team Adaptability to Maximize Work Performance” are excellent resources for distance learners. Students in this class learn how to deal with the rapidly evolving environment that affects workers’ and a team’s employment, cope with changes by developing employment skills, and help a group manage, adapt, and learn. Since the world is constantly changing, we must keep ourselves relevant and valuable. Courses like this are perfect for existing and new managers, supervisors, and business professionals.

Action Plans

soft skills
  1. Find a Mentor
    Leaders are responsible for much in the business world. Successful leaders understand the importance of mentoring, delegation, and communication, among other skills. As you consider leaders who have influenced you in school and at work, think about what it would take to seek a regular meeting time with a mentor who can invest in your professional and personal development.
  2. Read Books on Communication
    There are countless resources available about quality communication. Business leaders are readers who understand the essential value of communicating effectively-verbally and in written form. Do a quick search on the top-rated books on communication, and then hit your local library so you can have zero investment but get so much out of it.
  3. Find a Degree that Stresses Soft Skills
    If you’re interested in pursuing a business career, you will want to develop essential business soft skills. When researching online MBAs, see if business schools offer courses dedicated to soft skill development. You will quickly discover that an online MBA program will help you establish a strong foundation in business principles while equipping you with the soft skills you need for a long and successful career as a business leader.

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