Non-technical Skills That Help Business Leaders Thrive

Non-technical Skills That Help Business Leaders Thrive  | The Enterprise World

Today’s business leaders landscape is an ever-changing one with experts from all around the world ready to make decisions and build brands. The complexity of the decisions that need to be made across industries is steadily increasing as the marketplace widens, consumer demand sharpens, and implementing new technology becomes paramount to success. In order to rise above the competition in the job market and effectively lead businesses to sustained growth and health, leaders must master a wide variety of skills. In this article, we’ll explore some of the crucial non-technical skills that good business leaders and executive managers should master. 

How should you begin your leadership journey? 

Before you can become a powerful leader, you must master several different skills. While some of this learning comes from life experience, much of it can be introduced and reinforced in an academic environment. Effective education is crucial for most leaders. Very few people have the ability to master all of the necessary skills on their own. Instead, they seek mentorship and education from professionals to give themselves the best chance possible to succeed. 

One of the best ways to learn all the skills you need to thrive in the business landscape is to pursue a formal education. Earning a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree from a reputable institution such as Spalding University provides promising business leaders with the necessary skills to excel in leadership roles. With this fully online program, students can graduate in as little as two years. Some of the topics covered include ethical leadership, identifying and analyzing organizational issues, creating cultural awareness, and leading innovative and creative change. Do some research into what you can do with an EdD in leadership and learn how comprehensive education can help you in your leadership journey.  

In addition to traditional educational options like the one described above, seeking out experienced and successful professionals in your field can help you master the skills you need to thrive. You can find these professionals in a few different ways, but the most effective and common one is networking.  

Don’t pass up opportunities to interact with the professionals in your field of choice! Social opportunities help forge beneficial relationships between established names in the industry and newcomers looking to break into it.  

Now that we know how to acquire some of the skills that will help us on our leadership journey, let’s take a look at the most important ones to master.  

Non-technical skills for business leaders:

Non-technical Skills That Help Business Leaders Thrive  | The Enterprise World

Two of the most important categories of business skills are non-technical skills and technical skills. The latter refers to industry-specific knowledge and abilities, while the former refers to universal skills that are important for leaders in most industries. In this article, we’re exploring non-technical skills. Our goal is to help you understand some of the most important abilities you need to master in order to succeed in business, no matter what kind of business is at stake. 

With that in mind, here are some of the skills we think are most important to successful professionals: 

Strategic management:

The best leaders aren’t immovable in their decisions and their approaches. On the contrary, they are observant and willing to adapt as needed. Strategic leaders are both flexible and resolute, even in the face of setbacks and challenges. They can react on the fly to environmental shifts and tailor their leadership style best to suit the needs of the people around them. Strategic management refers to the same goals and approaches, specifically in the management sphere — as opposed to higher-level executives who don’t do as much hands-on managing. 

In order to master strategic management, you must first learn and be able to apply several skills. In addition to the others we’ll be covering later in this list, there are three important skills that effective strategic managers need to master: 

  • Forethought 
  • Transformational vision 
  • Interpretation 

Forethought, also known as anticipation, refers to the ability to detect potential threats and opportunities that exist for business leaders. After all, organizations don’t exist in a vacuum, and there are often events happening in the periphery that can have a significant impact on them. Forethought allows strategic managers to detect these concerns and prepare to adapt to changes as they arise.  

Transformational vision is a non-technical skills that helps leaders challenge the status quo. Strategic managers examine and reflect on problems from a variety of viewpoints. In other words, they are not restricted to considering their personal opinion, but actively consider opposing viewpoints and objectively weigh the pros and cons. Sometimes, their initial instinct turns out to be the best option, while at other times, someone with a different perspective offers the most effective solution.  

Interpretation refers to a strategic manager’s ability to process information and gain new insights. Consider the case of a food company that takes advantage of low-carb trends to revise its snacks to better appeal to the masses. Unfortunately, despite the product being just as good as the other options on the market, they lost customers instead of gaining them. A strategic leader is able to dig into the root cause of this issue. They might connect the dots to discover that the problem is the sugar in the mix. Instead of low-carb, potential customers wanted sugar-free snacks. The company can now revise its formula to meet this unforeseen need.  


Decision-making is an important skill to master in many different industries and roles, and business leaders management is no exception. In fact, it is the foundation upon which the best leaders build their strategies. Great leaders make good decisions that allow them to utilize other non-technical skills like critical thinking and empathy effectively. Their leadership style radiates from good decisions. 

To excel in decision-making, you must master a few different non-technical skills: 

  • Visionary perspective 
  • Adaptability 
  • Collaboration 
  • Embracing innovation 
  • Emotional intelligence 

We’ll discuss a few of these later, but let’s take a closer look at some of the rest of them. Visionary perspective refers to a leader’s compelling and concrete vision of their business’ future. This vision guides their decision-making process and helps them align their decisions with the goals of the business leaders and initiatives taking place throughout the organization. 

Embracing innovation is a skill that ensures leaders are ready to utilize the latest technology in their businesses to put them ahead. It encourages leaders to take calculated risks and experiment when implementing changes.  

Critical thinking:

Non-technical Skills That Help Business Leaders Thrive  | The Enterprise World

Critical thinking has historically been a core skill effective business leaders master. It refers to the objective evaluation and analysis of information or issues to inform judgments. Instead of accepting something at face value, in other words, critical thinkers consider who the information is coming from, why it was collected in the first place and how trustworthy the authors are. For example, favorable lab results from various cosmetics might not be the most objective if the cosmetic company is the one hiring consultants and paying them to collect the information and results. Critical thinking helps leaders identify those potential issues.  

Critical thinking is composed of a few different steps and non-technical skills. Some of the most important of them include: 

  • Questioning assumptions 
  • Considering different perspectives 
  • Identifying potential 

Leaders who question assumptions look at the “why” and “what” behind propositions. What is being presented and why? This echoes the example above about cosmetic companies hiring their own in-house team of scientists. Why would they do this and what are they hoping to gain? Critical thinking is especially important in crises because it helps leaders understand the origin and cause of the problem.  

Considering different perspectives enables leaders to take advantage of the diverse business leaders landscape. With the plethora of backgrounds, cultures, and genders in the workplace, leaders should have no problem soliciting information from a variety of different perspectives. This, in turn, sometimes provides valuable insights into the question or issue.  

Today’s business landscape is a busy one. Sometimes successes and failures, and everything in between, come at you quickly. Effective leaders are able to see potential in everything. A production snag, for example, might cause some business leaders to panic and scramble for other sources. Leaders who can see the potential in things, however, might see this as an opportunity to revise and refine the product or create an entirely new one.  

All these non-technical skills and steps help leaders to slow down their thought processes and consider an issue from every angle.  


If you master just non-technical skills on this list, let it be adaptability. Adaptive leadership ensures that you are never completely helpless in any situation, no matter how unexpected it might be. The COVID-19 pandemic absolutely paralyzed some businesses, for example, as they grappled with the unexpected need to move their teams off-site and fundamentally change the way they did business. These business leaders found it difficult to recover from initial missteps, and some of them ultimately closed. Adaptable leaders, on the other hand, had the knowledge and confidence to guide their teams even in trying times.  

Adaptive leaders must take a few different steps in order to master the skill. First, they must master effective communication. Quality communication lies at the heart of adaptability. It helps leaders connect with their workforce effectively and provide the information and reassurance workers might need to shift course and change the way they are completing their work.  

Creating inclusive and diverse environments is also key to an adaptable workplace. The goal here is to build teams composed of professionals from a range of different backgrounds, perspectives, strengths and even personality styles. When every member of a team not only has something unique to offer but feels empowered to speak up and offer their opinion, the group becomes stronger and better able to work together no matter what comes its way. 

Empathy, which we will discuss more below, is the third part of this equation. If your goal is to emphasize adaptability, you must be able to adapt to different personalities and perspectives. Empathy helps leaders put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They can temporarily see through their employee’s eyes and understand where their ideas, struggles and strengths come from. As a result, they can connect with them on a more personal level and build strong ties through all sorts of challenges. 

Adaptability might not be the most frequently discussed business leadership skill, but it is undoubtedly one of the most important. When you build an adaptable workforce, you are better prepared to handle not just unexpected changes in the future but also more mundane changes like technology changes.  


Non-technical Skills That Help Business Leaders Thrive  | The Enterprise World

Self-awareness in leadership consists of two different types of awareness — internal and external. Internal self-awareness refers to how well leaders understand their own motivations, values, impact on others and role in the workplace. External self-awareness looks at all of these same things but from someone else’s perspective. It refers to how other people perceive our motivations, values, impact on others and role in the workplace. Almost everyone has had the experience of working with a leader who assumes they know best and cannot see how their own actions are impacting the people around them. Self-aware leaders are much less likely to fall into this toxic trap.  

In leadership, self-awareness empowers leaders to make use of their natural inclinations that can help them achieve their goals while strengthening the weaker ones and tempering inclinations that may impede them. You can foster self-awareness by: 

  • Identifying patterns of behavior 
  • Soliciting feedback 
  • Creating and enacting meaningful solutions for growth 

Identifying patterns of behavior refers to the ability to recognize consistent issues in behavior. In self-aware business leaders, specifically, it is a skill that helps leaders identify the common things they do that regularly impact their work and communication. Interrupting others or rushing through conversations, for example, can have an adverse effect on the effectiveness of your communication as well as the way others perceive you and your leadership ability. Self-aware leaders recognize these shortcomings and take great pains to change them.  

Soliciting feedback is another important step in helping build self-awareness. Leaders who actively encourage their employees to provide honest feedback about a specific interaction or skill will gain insight into the way their behavior impacts others and how they are viewed. If multiple employees share that they felt disrespected during recent conversations, for example, self-aware leaders will analyze their own actions to determine where the communication breakdown occurred and remedy it so that it doesn’t continue to be an issue in the future. 

Finally, effective business leaders strengthen their self-awareness by creating and enacting meaningful solutions for growth. They don’t just promise to change and then forget all about it the second the conversation ends. Self-aware leaders actively improve by creating plans and taking steps to change their behavior.  


A 2023 report found that roughly 90% of employees felt that empathetic leaders boosted morale, and even more of them stated that empathy is an essential ingredient of inclusive workplaces.  

Empathy is one of the most important non-technical skills you will master as a business leader. It is the ability to show the people around you compassion even when you lack firsthand experience. Perhaps a subordinate loses a child, for example, but you have never experienced that very specific kind of pain. Empathy allows you to grasp the struggles your employee is facing anyway. Empathetic leaders do their best to understand their employees, share that understanding and respond thoughtfully to the employee’s feelings, circumstances and thoughts.  

You can build empathy by: 

  • Actively listening 
  • Understanding that it is okay to not have the answers 
  • Avoiding “autopilot” responses 

Empathetic leaders listen to what their employees are telling them. They actively put themselves in their employee’s shoes and attempt to understand where their concerns are coming from. Once they have a solid grasp of why the employee in question is responding the way they are, leaders should take some time to consider their response. Issuing a standard reply can seriously impact workplace morale, especially if it happens repeatedly. Leaders with empathy have one-on-one discussions with their employees and respond to their words on a personal level.  

Leadership is a journey:

Sometimes, leaders just don’t have the answers. That’s okay. While it would be nice if we always knew exactly what to say and do, it’s not a realistic expectation to have. Sometimes you will have to do some research on your own, build transferable non-technical skills to help you problem-solve, or reach out to other professionals for help.  

Are you ready to begin your leadership journey? From active listening to solid decision-making and even fostering self-awareness, there are many non-technical skills aspiring professionals must master. Use the information we’ve compiled above to get started!  

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