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What Soft Skills are Essential for a Successful Career in Business?

  • Written by Telegraph Magazine

When it comes to business, some skills just can’t be taught. 

Getting a degree in business can teach you many things. It can teach you about finance and accounting, how to market your business, how to effectively lead a team, how to use software, how to ace a job interview, and can even provide you with valuable networking opportunities. However, not every skill can be measured and quantified. Some skills are innate, and although a formal education can help you refine and hone these skills, they can’t necessarily be taught.

The things that can be taught are generally referred to as “hard skills”. These skills are the fundamentals of business and management. When taught correctly, almost anyone can learn to use modern technology or analyse data. Soft skills are things that are more difficult to define. They don’t have a physical form. Some people seem to be born with better soft skills than others.

If you don’t naturally possess these skills, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful career in business. It’s never too late to practice and improve your soft skills.


Leadership may be the most essential skill when it comes to business, particularly if you envision running a company someday. Leading a team of people takes someone who can be assertive and persuasive- but also patient and compassionate. Leadership isn’t just about wielding power and prestige. It also means motivating and guiding others.

In addition to leading others, those in leadership positions must have refined decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Dithering over every decision will waste time and make others less confident in your decision-making capabilities, as will showing bias or inequality when making decisions and resolving conflicts. Time management is another significant skill that comes in handy in any career, including business.

Work Ethic

Having a work ethic makes you more credible, reliable and passionate about your work. You can demonstrate your commitment by being punctual, professional and disciplined and responding calmly and positively to any situation that arises. If you make a habit of arriving late, missing deadlines and acting unprofessionally, people may be less likely to trust you with important tasks.


Communication is second to none in business. Whether you’re articulating goals and expectations, conferring with clients or customers, or writing a report, good communication is essential. Grammar and spelling are important, but communication is more than that. It is important to come across as professional, sensible and understanding whether you’re communicating via email or face-to-face.

Your clients aren’t the only ones you’ll be communicating with. It’s important to keep professionalism and boundaries in mind when speaking with your colleagues. Most importantly, it’s crucial that you listen as well as speak.

Communication can help with landing new deals or accounts, promoting your business, and fostering a sense of safe and open communication within your business. Having great people skills is also great for teambuilding and collaboration. 

Emotional Intelligence

Professionalism is crucial, but so is knowing when and how to show compassion and understanding. The ability to read a room and act accordingly will benefit everyone involved. Navigating complex social dynamics within the office is much easier if you’re able to read body language and respect that others may be battling unseen issues in their personal lives.


The world of business is evolving so fast it can be difficult to keep up. Whether you’re adapting to new hires or new leadership, or taking on new advancements in technology and research, things will be much easier if you’re agile and willing to take sharp turns when necessary.

Conflict Resolution

No business is immune to conflicts and bumps in the road. Conflict can arise in even the most welcoming and safe working environment.

Resolving conflicts means making use of a lot of your other soft skills, such as leadership, communication and emotional intelligence. When done effectively, resolving a conflict will restore peace and harmony to your workplace while potentially salvaging a deal or partnership.

Conflicts in business could mean anything from a small disagreement over an idea to a more significant personal matter. Some conflicts are best left to HR to handle, but smaller conflicts can be diffused then and there. Addressing them in an objective and constructive manner can prevent things from going any further.