's 10 Most Important Soft Skills for 2021

By - March 19, 2021

Education Week recently surveyed executives at leading companies to see what they "want and expect" from the next generation of employees. Respondents from corporate giants like Microsoft, Apple, General Motors, and Cigna overwhelmingly emphasized the importance of soft skills. provides numerous ways for individuals to learn about soft skills, including hundreds of Life Skills videos. For our list of top soft skills, we focused heavily on social-emotional skills, which are especially helpful for dealing with changes, stressors, and pressure in productive ways.  

1) Empathy-  The ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Individuals with a strong sense of empathy are better managers, yet only 40% of frontline leaders are proficient in empathy. Experts predict empathy will increase in importance as our workplaces become more automated. Technology can improve workflows, but it can’t empathize with customers or coworkers.    

2) Growth Mindset- People who subscribe to a "fixed" mindset believe character, intelligence, and skills are inherent. Those with a "growth" mindset believe they can develop skills through hard work and effort. Someone with a growth mindset might look at failing to meet a goal as an opportunity to learn from this setback. Companies that embrace a growth mindset find their employees are more empowered, committed, and collaborative. 

3) Flexibility- The ability to learn new skills in changing circumstances, pivoting from procedures that don't work, and the ability to manage ambiguity. Employees with flexibility skills can reprioritize and regroup quickly when setbacks occur. 

4) Self-Awareness- Identifying how emotions, motives, and feelings interact. Do you get easily frustrated when no one listens? Do you struggle to embrace constructive criticism? Individuals with self-awareness can critique themselves and adapt their behavior to achieve desired outcomes.  Self-aware individuals also understand others better, enabling them to lead more effectively. 

5) Emotional Intelligence (EQ)- Closely related to self-awareness. While self-awareness is being cognizant of the ways you think and act, emotional intelligence is the capacity to pragmatically manage those feelings. EQ makes individuals better collaborators, more empathetic, and helps improve communication. 

6) Active Listening- Being present in your conversations, listening with undivided attention, and asking meaningful questions based on what the other party says. Research shows that speakers volunteered less information with inattentive listeners and gave more information and relevant details to active listeners. 

7) Hope- Hopeful people can imagine a better reality than their current situation. Hope allows people to be more flexible when plans deviate. Hopeful individuals can identify and work towards achievable goals.  

8) Humility- Author C.S. Lewis said, "humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less." Humble individuals credit others for their work and celebrate the successes of others.  They acknowledge their own limitations, admit mistakes, and comfortable admitting what they don't know.  Managers who practice humility experience better job performance from their teams.  

9) Leadership- Not reserved for managers and CEO's, anyone can be a leader. If you've ever helped others through a challenge or reach a specific goal, you've shown leadership qualities. Good leaders demonstrate confidence, accountability, and strong decision-making abilities.

10) Storytelling- The process of using narratives to communicate to an audience. Stories help solidify concepts and simplify complex messages. They entertain, teach, and can be a powerful tool to persuade others.  

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