People are promoted through an organisation for a variety of reasons. Broadly speaking, the abilities people have can be divided into two main categories: technical and soft skills. For some promotions, possessing the necessary technical abilities and know-how is more than enough for a smooth transition into a new leadership role.

However, at a certain level, your soft skills will need to evolve rapidly to keep up. Say you’re leading a team through an important software development project. You likely understand the technical aspects of the brief perfectly, but do you know how to motivate your team? Can you defuse conflict if tensions arise? Soft skills are the abilities people immediately associate with leaders, such as the ability to communicate effectively and direct a team, but what happens if you suddenly find yourself in a management role but have never given these skills a second thought?

Technical and soft skills complement each other

For leadership roles, in-depth knowledge of a company’s products and services has to be supported by managerial traits, such as communication skills, the ability to inspire engagement and a talent for big-picture thinking.

A close up of a man's hand, sitting at a desk

How can you begin to recognise where skill gaps lie?

Frequently, we come across cases where a new manager has been promoted due to their technical ability. In cases like that, they simply may not be aware they’ve failed to develop a managerial skill set over time. It doesn’t mean they can’t be effective leaders, just that they now have to invest time and effort into management training that can support their years of technical experience.

How can teams help a new leader evolve?

Our model is built around having set standards for behaviour within a work environment. If a team lives by these standards, any person within that group can easily understand the strengths and shortfalls they bring to a team.

Frameworks should help people develop beliefs.

Ideally these frameworks go beyond being a simple set of requirements for people to tick off and instead become beliefs that bring them together. Being united by that framework should allow for team members to have an honest dialogue about their performance and how they could better support each other to drive and improve their performance.

New leaders who receive feedback from their team can then make a plan for how they should evolve to bring those soft skills to the fore. One option is to consult an external mentor, someone outside the businesses who can help to shape your development. Then, talk to people in the business you can trust to challenge you, and don’t be afraid to sit down with books to better understand what it means to be an effective leader.


Martine Harkin

Martine Harkin

Martine joined Leading Teams in 2008 after an 11 year teaching career. Martine is a Facilitator/Partner based in Melbourne.

Learn more about Martine.